The Al-Khalifi regime insists on continuing its alliance with Israel despite the rise of extreme right-wing parties to power in Tel Aviv and the risks that this entails for the Palestinian cause.
Reuters highlighted that Israel’s sharp inclination towards what is likely to be the most extreme right-wing government in its history puts its new Arab allies in the awkward position of dealing with ultra-nationalists while trying to do more than pay lip service to the Palestinian cause.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, sworn in last week, includes far-right parties wanting to annex the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians have long sought an independent state.
This poses a dilemma for four Arab states – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan – that moved toward normal relations with Israel two years ago and must now balance this new partnership with historic support for Palestinian aspirations.
Recently, the Bahraini ambassador to Israel, Khaled Al-Jalahma, announced his country’s commitment to normalization. The ambassador wrote on Twitter on December 19 that the King of Bahrain had “wisely ordained that we look forward to prosperous coexistence and peace. The historic Abraham Accords restored hope and emphasized the importance of dialogue.”
According to Reuters, there seems to be no sign of any danger to the normalization of the Abraham Accords, although they may not be prevalent on the Arab street.
Netanyahu pledged to build on his achievement during his previous tenure of the Abraham Accords, which opened the way for a possible normalization of relations with other Arab countries.
During 2022, the Al-Khalifa regime publicly and privately intensified its steps to strengthen the alliance with Israel. It began with a visit to the Israeli Minister of Defense at the time, Benny Gantz, in February to sign a defence agreement with Manama before announcing the appointment of a naval officer stationed in the Gulf state.
At that time, Manama also witnessed the first military exercise led by the United States, with the participation of 60 countries and joint organizations, including Israel, as well as some countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with it.
On the 14th of the same month, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Manama. He held a series of meetings with senior Bahraini officials, including the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister to the Gulf state.
In March, the head of the Israeli Mossad, David Barnea, visited Manama within the framework of “security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.”
At that time, the Undersecretary of the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, said during the Munich Security Conference that “there is intelligence cooperation between Israel and Bahrain, Mossad is present in Bahrain, and if this security cooperation provides more security and stability, then it must happen.”
During the Negev summit in Israel in March, the two foreign ministers discussed bilateral relations before witnessing a framework agreement regarding a “joint strategy for warm peace between the two countries.”
In October, Bahrain hosted a parachute show in which the armies of the UAE, the United States and Israel participated before 4 Israeli companies participated, in November, in the Bahrain International Airshow in its sixth edition, which the Sakhir Air Base hosted.
Simultaneously, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Air Force, Brigadier General Eyal Greenboim, made an “unprecedented” visit to Bahrain, during which he participated in the Air Force Commanders’ Conference in Bahrain.
Normalization between the two countries culminated in the last month of the year, which witnessed the visit of the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, to Manama, where he met King Hamad bin Isa and presented him with a Jewish amulet, a traditional Jewish amulet that Jews hang on the doors of their homes and touch or kiss them before entering.
During the meeting, the two sides held discussions on strengthening relations between the two sides before they agreed on the need to continue efforts to protect the security of the region in light of the current challenges.
Later, official Hebrew media revealed that the signing of a free trade agreement between Israel and Bahrain was close, allowing trade between them to expand to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
According to data from the Foreign Trade Department at the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, since the signing of the normalization agreement about two years ago, trade between Israel and Bahrain has grown steadily and, in 2021, reached about $7.5 million.
During the past year, Bahrain and Israel signed several agreements, in several areas, including in the areas of agriculture, livestock and food security.