‘We will not allow’ Iran to succeed, Bennett tells Bahraini newspaper

“We will fight Iran and its affiliates in the region every day, and we will help our friends strengthen their peace, security and stability,” Bennett stated.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had a crowded schedule of meetings Tuesday on the first visit of an Israeli head of state to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Bennett landed Monday night in Manama, where he was greeted by a full military honor guard. The following morning, he met with the leaders of the country’s small Jewish community.

He told the group that he “could think of no better way to kick off this visit” than by meeting with them, calling the community “my family here in Bahrain.”

Bennett credited the community with “play[ing] a central role in realizing the peace accords between the two countries,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister said the community would likely be “a remarkable bridge between Bahrain and Israel” and applauded them for “serving as a model for cooperation between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East in general and in Bahrain in particular.”

His arrival was then celebrated by a second honor guard at the royal palace, where both countries’ national anthems were played and the Israeli flag flew side by side with Bahrain’s on tall flagpoles. The Israeli leader was warmly greeted by Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa before being whisked off for a private meeting between the two.

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Iran was a major issue on the agenda. In an interview published Tuesday morning in the local Al-Ayyam newspaper, Bennett said that Bahrain and Israel “are facing the same threats. Iran is working to destroy the moderate countries and replace them with bloodthirsty terrorist organizations.”

Mentioning the security agreement signed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz with Manama less than two weeks ago, Bennett noted that both countries face “major security challenges” due to the Islamic Republic, which “undermines stability throughout the region” by supporting local terrorist proxies.

“We will not allow this,” he said. “We will fight Iran and its affiliates in the region every day, and we will help our friends strengthen their peace, security and stability as requested.”

He told the paper that he sees the two states “as close partners in all areas,” specifically mentioning trade and tourism, where he expects a “significant” increase, especially when the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control.

“The cooperation between us is natural,” he said, adding, “We want a very warm peace with Bahrain.”

In line with both governments’ security concerns, Bennett also met in the morning with Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is headquartered in Manama. He praised the fleet as “a significant element in maintaining regional stability in the face of various security threats.”

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The naval force directs American operations to ensure maritime security in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, and Arabian Sea.

Last September, the Israeli Navy held a joint exercise with the Fifth Fleet for the first time in history, together with the UAE and Bahrain.

The prime minister then had a series of working meetings with the ministers of foreign affairs, industry, trade and tourism, and transportation, infrastructure, construction and agriculture. He is scheduled to meet King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa later in the day.