DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:20) – King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah has stated that he believes it is time to end the Arab boycott of Israel and to normalize ties between the Zionist entity and the states in the Arab Gulf. This was reported by Israeli media.
The king of the Gulf emirate reportedly made this statement during a visit to Los Angeles, where he attended an event by the pro-Israeli Simon Wiesenthal Center. During a conversation with the Center’s director Abraham Cooper, King Hamed furthermore stated that citizens of Bahrain are allowed to visit Israel as they see fit. Cooper from his side praised the King’s stance as “ahead of the pack, and smart”.
“If I had to predict, I would tell you that the Arab world’s relationship with the state of Israel is going to dramatically change,” the director added.
The meeting between the Bahraini monarch and the Simon Wiesenthal Center originally came as part of a plan to open a religious tolerance museum in the Gulf state’s capital of Manama.
The change in tone of the King of Bahrain comes after earlier reports surfaced of a rapprochement between Israel and both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Last week, it was reported that a secret meeting had taken place between representatives from the Saudi royal family and Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. And last June saw the leaking of several e-mails from the UAE’s ambassador to the US, indicating he had extensive contacts with a pro-Israeli think tank.
The move by Bahrain, while no doubt shocking to many in the Arab world, is not entirely unexpected. During last year’s Hanukkah celebrations, videos were published showing Bahraini men dancing and celebrating with Jewish guests, likely Israelis.
If Bahrain were to carry on with the plan to normalize ties with Israel, it would mean a withdrawal from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that was instituted in 2005 and officially adopted by the Arab League. The BDS agreement bars any signatory states from economical relations with Israel.
The regime in Bahrain has recently grown closer to Saudi Arabia, and has joined the quartet of nations together with the Saudis, Egypt and the UAE in enforcing an economic blockade on the State of Qatar. The Wahhabi-influenced monarchy also gained international notoriety for its brutal crackdown of Shia protests in 2011-2013. Just last January, the regime executed three Shia men accused of a bomb attack on security forces, for which the evidence was reported to be highly questionable.