Senior American officials say Bahrain and Oman will recognize Israel, putting a nail in the coffin of the Saudi-led Arab peace initiative.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Bahrain’s prime minister left the kingdom for a “private visit” outside the country, fueling speculation Sunday that the other Gulf countries may follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and sign agreements to normalize relations with Israel.
A Bahrain government Twitter account said Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa had gone to an unspecified destination. Bahrain is a close ally of the United States and it hosts a huge U.S. Navy base that is home to the Fifth Fleet.
Bahrain is allied with the other Gulf Arab countries in fearing Iran and also has warm unofficial ties with Israel. It was one of the first countries to congratulate the UAE last week after the announcement by President Trump of the UAE-Israel peace deal.
Trump said that the breakthrough UAE-Israel deal would be followed by other countries. Senior U.S. officials believe that Bahrain and Oman may be the next countries to establish relations with Israel. Both expressed support for the agreement, and Netanyahu even thanked both countries and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for the support.
“Saudi Arabia is the cherry [on top],” Henrika Zimmerman, chairperson of the Israel-Emirates Chamber of Commerce, told FM103 Radio. “I believe it will happen in a year or two … If we do not make mistakes along the way … Bahrain is like a Saudi neighborhood, they are waiting for their [Riyadh’s] okay. And the Omanis want it too.”
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called the recognition of Israel by the UAE “a geopolitical earthquake.”
“You see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the … radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.”
Friedman said the deal appears to be the end of the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which had called for Arab recognition of Israel to come only after an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. Given the Gulf countries’ unofficial business and intelligence dealings with Israel, the UAE announcement will encourage the other gulf nations to follow.
“They will not want to let the UAE have a leg up in being able to marry its financial capital with Israel’s cybertechnology, agriculture technology and health care technology, with the potential to make both countries stronger and more prosperous.”
“This deal is right in Iran’s face,” Friedman said. “The tacit message is: ‘We now have Israel on our side, so don’t mess with us.’ The vast damage Israel inflicted on Iran through apparent cyberwarfare in recent months may have even given the UAE more breathing room to do this deal.”