Bahrain Becomes Second Arab Nation in a Month to Establish Full Diplomatic Relations With Israel

L-R: Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)

President Trump announced on Friday that Bahrain would establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, following the United Arab Emirates, in another sign of shifting Middle East dynamics that are bringing Arab nations closer to Israel.

Mr. Trump announced the news on Twitter, releasing a joint statement with Bahrain and Israel and calling the move “a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East.” Speaking to reporters, the president said the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was a fitting day for the announcement.

“There’s no more powerful response to the hatred that spawned 9/11,” he said.

The announcement came after a similar one last month by Israel and the United Arab Emirates that they would normalize relations, on the condition that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel not follow through with plans to annex portions of the West Bank. Trump administration officials said they hoped that agreement would encourage other Arab countries with historically hostile — though recently thawing — relations with Israel to take similar steps.

The deal, which isolates the Palestinians, comes as Mr. Trump tries to position himself as a peacemaker before the elections in November.

Bahrain’s move was not unexpected: The tiny Persian Gulf kingdom was widely seen as the low-hanging fruit to be picked if all went well in the aftermath of the Emiratis’ announcement, analysts said. Bahrain, strategically important as the home port for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, had already opened its airspace to new commercial passenger flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the region last month in an effort to close the deal.

It was unclear whether the United States or Israel had made any concessions to Bahrain in exchange for the agreement. When asked during a briefing for reporters, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, who helped to broker the deal, did not respond directly.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Michael Crowley and David M. Halbfinger