Israel’s top diplomat Yair Lapid marked his visit to Bahrain by opening an embassy in Manama, one year after a US-brokered normalisation of ties between the two countries.
“We have officially opened the Israeli embassy in Bahrain,” tweeted Lapid. “We agreed that by the end of the year, there will be the opening of the Bahraini embassy in Israel.”
On Thursday, Lapid touched down at Manama airport just over an hour before a Gulf Air flight took off in the opposite direction to Ben Gurion airport, marking the first commercial flight between the two countries.
Landing in Manama on a plane daubed with an olive branch painting, Lapid met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Former US President Donald Trump forged normalisation agreements called the “Abraham Accords” between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September 2020.
Additional agreements were reached to include Morocco in December and Sudan in January this year.
Lapid also toured the Bahrain headquarters of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has faced off Iranian vessels amid tensions over Tehran’s regional aims.
Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and Lapid also held a news conference, during which they signed a number of MoUs ranging from cooperation in environmental conservation to sports.
“Your visit builds on the considerable progress we have already made … and underlines once again our shared desire to spread peace, stability, and cooperation across the Middle East and achieve genuine and lasting security and prosperity for its peoples,” said al-Zayani.
Bahrain reaffirmed its commitment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.
Lapid said that he too was “a devoted supporter of the two-state solution” but stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the government.
“I think it’s the right solution for the people of Israel and the Palestinians, as well. Not everyone in our government thinks the same,” he said.
The accords have been denounced by Palestinians as abandoning a unified position under which Arab states would make peace only if Israel gave up the occupied land.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the visit represented “an encouragement” of what he described as Israeli “crimes against our people”.