(CNN)President Donald Trump said Friday that Israel and Bahrain have agreed to the “establishment of full diplomatic relations,” marking the second time in a month an Arab Gulf nation has announced new ties with the Jewish state and further reshaping alliances in the Middle East.
Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain to establish ‘full diplomatic relations,’ Trump says
Unveiling the new agreement from the Oval Office, Trump cast the move as a step toward peace in the region. He has worked to broker accords between Arab nations and Israel that he hopes will lead to a broader peace deal.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today!” Trump tweeted.
The announcement came less than a week ahead of a White House signing ceremony between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that will bring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati officials to Washington.
As a condition of that agreement, Netanyahu agreed to shelve plans for now to annex sections of the West Bank. He has not ruled out resuming the annexation in the future.
Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khallaf will join Israel and the UAE for the signing ceremony currently scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the statement from Trump.
The announcement comes two months ahead of the US presidential election, where Trump hopes his efforts to forge foreign agreements will help sway voters. He has touted his support for Israel to Evangelicals in particular.
The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, took part in a phone call with Trump and Netanyahu to discuss the agreement, according to Bahrain’s state-run news agency.
Al-Khalifa “stressed the need to reach a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option, in accordance with the two-state solution and relevant resolutions of international legitimacy,” according to the report.
The King’s diplomatic adviser Khalid bin Khalifa tweeted that the agreement “is in the interest of the security, stability and prosperity of the region, and sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best way and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”
Netanyahu welcomed the agreement in a statement and claimed more Arab countries would follow suit.
“It took 26 years to get from the second peace agreement with an Arab country to the third agreement, and it took not 26 years but 29 days to go from the third peace agreement with an Arab country to the fourth, and there will be more,” Netanyahu said.
Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner described the announcement as sign that a “new Middle East” is emerging.
Kushner who spearheaded the Trump administration’s failed efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians wouldn’t directly address whether Bahrain has asked for any concessions as part of the deal, only saying that Bahrain is a very different country than the UAE.
Earlier this week, Kushner told reporters that they are “seriously” discussing selling F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE as part of the agreement to pursue a normalization deal with the Israel. Kushner noted that Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and the US will continue to develop its military ties with the kingdom.
But there was anger from Palestinians. Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted: “If you really wish to ‘advance the cause of peace, dignity, & economic opportunity for the Palestinian people’ how about ending Israel’s ruthless occupation & its theft of our land & resources? Coercing & cajoling Arabs to normalize with Israel will not bring you peace or dignity.”
Bahrain, a tiny island nation with significantly less natural wealth than most of its Arab Gulf neighbors, is regarded in some ways as an extension of Saudi Arabia, partly because they are physically linked by a causeway but also because the Bahraini monarchy is heavily reliant on Riyadh.
Officials said the agreement with Israel announced on Friday could likely not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s blessing, signaling that Bahrain may serve as a test case for a future Saudi-Israel deal.
Bahrain was home to one of the major popular uprisings during the Arab Spring, leading to a brutal crackdown by Saudi Arabia, which sent tanks over the causeway to crush the protests.
Bahrain, a small nation with significantly less natural wealth than some of its Arab Gulf neighbors, sits only 60 kilometers from Iran. Home to a Shiite majority ruled by Sunni sheikhs, Bahrain sees major benefit in this anti-Iran solidarity effort brokered by the United States.
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