Bahrain and Israel signed a joint communique to formalise nascent ties during a visit by an Israeli and U.S. delegation to Manama on Sunday to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark and potential economic bonanza.
Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in agreeing last month to normalise ties with Israel, stunning Palestinians who had demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.
The breakthrough, overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump, is a foreign policy flourish ahead of his bid for re-election next month. For the U.S. allies, it is a chance to close ranks on Iran more overtly.
The Israeli delegation, which flew on an El Al Israel Airlines charter flight from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, was accompanied by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
“It was indeed an historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani said after the signing ceremony with Israel’s Foreign Ministry director general Alon Ushpiz and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
Al-Zayani touched elbows with Ben-Shabbat, who described the step as a “promising beginning” and said the Israeli delegation was accepted “with open arms, with warmth and cordiality.”
Israel and Bahrain, host to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, signed a “Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations” at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, a document that fell short of a formal treaty.