As Israel Prepares to Open Embassy in Bahrain, Local Analyst Says It's The Start of a Warm Peace
Although Manama has bolstered military ties with Israel in a bid to curb the threat of Iran, trade, tourism and the economy haven't seen much investment in the one year since the two nations signed their historic normalisation agreement. But a local analyst says it is now bound to change.
Only three months after the inauguration of the Israeli embassy in the United Arab Emirates, Israel's new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, is expected in Bahrain's capital Manama on Thursday, where he will open the Jewish state's second embassy in the Gulf
Right Step Forward
Tamam Busafi, a Manama-based political expert, says the arrival of the Israeli foreign minister is an "important step in the development of the relations between the two countries".
"The opening of the embassy is important not only from economic and political points of view. It is morally important because it shows that the two states are committed to the development of those ties and won't just put the Accords in a remote drawer."
"We have so many spheres that we can cooperate in. Israel is not only good for high-tech. It can also offer excellent medicine, agriculture and food security. Bahrain can offer tourism as we boast the most ancient sites in the Gulf region. We can explore these options."
So far, those options have only been on paper. In the year since the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020, Israel and Bahrain have signed seven deals, including in the sphere of banking. But major agreements have not been struck, and tourists haven't been flowing mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as economic ties which were largely under-developed. The dream of generating $220 million dollars in trade was also put on a low flame
Security ties, on the other hand, have actually seen a boost. Earlier this year, it was reported that Israel, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were holding talks to establish a so-called military pact aimed at curbing Iran and its nuclear ambitions, which allegedly threaten these states
A senior Bahraini official has openly met an Israeli military commander in charge of Iran matters in August, and reports suggest that meetings of that sort are not a rare phenomenon
Busafi agrees that the alignment against Iran has been one of the major factors that has drawn Israel, Bahrain and the UAE together. It was not their nuclear drive only. The Gulf states have been largely concerned with what they brand as Iranian efforts to export their revolution to other parts of the Gulf and Middle East and with their support to groups and militias that destabilise the region, like Yemen's Houthis, the Palestinian Hamas and the Islamic Jihad or Lebanon's Hezbollah.
However, she is also convinced that Manama was interested in peace with Israel regardless of the Iranian issue. Her country sought lucrative deals and the diversification of its investments, but it was also tired of the stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and wanted to make a change.
"The signing of the Accords with Israel is not an indication that we don't want the Palestinians to have their own independent state," said the analyst.
"The opposite is true. We would like them to succeed, and this is also what the Accords would like to achieve," she added.
The analyst warns that the future will not always be "pink and rosy".
"There will be ups and downs. But we want to understand each other and work together. We don't want to have a cold peace with Israel. We want it to be warm, we want trade and tourists."
A small batch of those are expected to arrive in Manama tomorrow, when Gulf Air, Bahrain's flagship carrier, is expected to conduct its first official flight from Tel Aviv to the tiny Arab nation
But Busafi is certain that this is just the beginning. "Once we will have a regular exchange of visitors, cooperation will blossom. It is only a matter of time."