King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa greets Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the Manama capital of Bahrain on Sunday. Image credit: Bahrain News Agency.
MANAMA, Bahrain - The tiny gulf nation which has nurtured long-held relations with Israel and was one of the first two countries to sign on to the Abraham Accords in 2020 is putting its full trust in the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Not deterred by reports, Netanyahu has abandoned the two-state solution and is about to lead a government, the majority of whose members have no interest in extending any rights to the Palestinians and instead want to annex the West Bank, Bahrain insists Netanyahu will save the day.
"We trust the leadership of Netanyahu," Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani told a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Bahraini capital of Manama on Sunday.
The foreign minister was speaking during a historic visit to Bahrain by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a visit that had been the subject of protests in the weeks leading up to the visit.
Image credit U.S. State Department
Al Zayani reminded journalists both he and Netanyahu were signatories to the Abraham Accords.
"I met with his excellency Netanyahu at the White House on a very bright day, after a rainy day. The day itself was sending a great message, a bright day for a bright future, a future that started by signing the Abraham Accords," the Bahraini foreign minister recalled.
He said he could not imagine just over two years on, Netanyahu would not honor the accords.
"I really look forward to working with Netanyahu's government to further develop on the successful achievement that we have achieved together to strengthen the peace and to work together to send the message of how the message of ensuring benefits of the peace can widen the circle of peace," he said.
Sunday was a day of pomp and ceremony, with the red carpet laid out for the Israeli president on his arrival at the Bahrain Airport and again at the Gudaibiya Palace, where he was greeted by King Hamad, who had extended the invitation to visit to President Herzog.
An official reception was held for President Herzog, and the national anthems of the two countries were played.
"We welcome your Excellency, Mr. President, and your accompanying delegation during your visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, and we are confident that this visit has an important role in consolidating relations between our two countries and supporting our common aspirations in terms of consolidating peace and sustainable development in the region and the world and represents an opportunity for you to witness the beauty of the religious and cultural diversity in our country, and the spirit of friendliness, tolerance and peaceful coexistence among the members of our honorable society of all religions and races, reaffirming our belief in the values of peace, brotherhood, and cooperation among human beings," the Bahraini king said in welcoming comments Sunday.
"We value and appreciate the developments witnessed in the relations between our two countries since the signing of the Abraham Accords and the Declaration in Support of Peace, which opens broader horizons for spreading the culture of peace and promoting security, stability, and peace in the Middle East and the world."
"Your Excellency Mr. President, the Kingdom of Bahrain firmly believes that dialogue and a peaceful and civilized approach are imperative for settling regional and international conflicts and disputes and ensuring the rights of people to security, development, and prosperity, stressing our firm position in support of achieving a just, comprehensive and sustainable peace that guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and that will lead to stability, development, and prosperity for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, as well as all peoples of the region," Bahrain's King Hamad said.
The Israeli president responded: "Your Majesty, this is a great moment, and I am proud to be here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. You are at the forefront of making history in the region where Jews and Muslims come together and advance together in peace. It is a long process, but it is not just a dream. As we see now, our two countries meet for peace. The Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Israel are considered pioneers in achieving this goal and agree with the rest of the countries that seek to achieve this. This is in the interest of our two countries and peoples, as well as in the interest of the countries and peoples of the region and the whole world, as well."
"Your Majesty, I am in the Kingdom of Bahrain accompanied by a delegation comprising elite representatives of the economic and trade sectors in Israel. We all look forward to working with the representatives of these sectors in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We also affirm our aspiration to work on strengthening relations between the people of Israel and the people of Bahrain," President Herzog said.
"Thank you for your hospitality and welcome. We also appreciate and thank you for your friendship, which will further strengthen our relations for the benefit of our two peoples. Thank you."
The Israeli president and his delegation of business leaders were then hosted at a banquet in their honor.
The party will leave Bahrain on Monday for a similar visit to the UAE.