Bahrain’s foreign minister landed in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning for a whirlwind visit, during which he will meet with senior Israeli officials and participate in a trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani is the first minister from the tiny island nation to visit the Jewish state. His Gulf Air flight touched down at Ben-Gurion Airport at 10:30 a.m., marking the first-ever nonstop commercial flight from Bahrain to Israel. He is joined by a senior US delegation, headed by the outgoing administration’s top peace negotiator, Avi Berkowitz.
Al-Zayani’s delegation — which includes various senior officials, including a deputy foreign minister, the head of Bahrain’s civil aviation and some journalists — was greeted at the airport by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
In a private conversation in front of al-Zayani’s car, Ashkenazi told his Bahraini counterpart that he was very excited to welcome him to Israel. “It’s historic visit,” he said.
“For us, this is a dramatic event,” an Israeli diplomat who deals with relations with Gulf states said Tuesday. “There is great enthusiasm on their part to advance their cooperation with us — in nearly all areas,” he added, noting that during Al-Zayani’s visit, the Arab Gulf monarchy and Israel will sign a number of bilateral agreements, including in the fields of aviation and technological cooperation.
Bahrain’s state-owned BNA news agency said Monday that the visit would “affirm Bahrain’s strong and permanent position in favor of supporting the peace process” and be focused on “the economic opportunities and bilateral accords with Israel.”
To some extent, al-Zayani has been the public face of Bahrain’s normalization process with Israel. He signed the Abraham Accords and a “Declaration of Peace” with Israel at the September 15 signing ceremony at the White House.
On October 25, he signed eight bilateral agreements, including a “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with Israel during a ceremony in Manama.