On Friday, the island kingdom of Bahrain announced that it is joining the United Arab Emirates in normalizing its relations with Israel. Representatives of all three countries meet in Washington today to finalize the arrangement. Although Manama has historically had less hostile relations with Jerusalem than other Persian Gulf nations, the move is no less momentous, as Oded Granot explains:
Bahrain, a tiny island nation off the Saudi coast, is more susceptible than the UAE to national-security threats posed by Iran. Tehran has made territorial claims on Bahrain in the past, and the fact that over 70 percent of Bahrain’s slightly more than one million residents are Shiite, ruled by a Sunni minority, makes it easier for [the Islamic Republic] to try establishing terrorist cells inside the country to destabilize the regime.
There’s a great deal of importance to the public alliance between Bahrain and Israel, and not just because of its security implications. Bahrain is a very small country, but has a free-market economy that doesn’t rely solely on oil. The Bahraini economy is the fastest growing in the Arab world and opens up a plethora of opportunities for broad commercial ties between the countries. On social issues, too, such as women’s rights, Bahrain is ahead of many Arab countries. In the cultural realm, meanwhile, more books are published there than any other Arab country.
How ironic that as these Gulf states normalize relations with Israel and emphasize equality between the religions, the Palestinian Authority is signaling it will not allow Muslims who enter Israel through Ben-Gurion International Airport to pray at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The tables have turned: Israel, which has regularly been accused of infringing on freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, is opening its gates to all Muslim worshippers who arrive from the Gulf—while the PA is threatening to forbid them from praying there.
Read more on Israel Hayom: https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/bahrains-move-is-no-less-brave-than-the-uae/