Why Bahrain Is Leading Gulf Arab Outreach to Israel

(Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington) Hussein Ibish - In recent weeks, the Kingdom of Bahrain has emerged as the Gulf Arab country most actively pursuing better relations with Israel, both for reasons of its own and, presumably, with the blessing of its principal benefactor, Saudi Arabia. Quiet contacts have been maintained since at least 1994. In September, at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa expressed opposition to the ongoing Arab League economic boycott of Israel and said that citizens of Bahrain and Israel should feel free to visit each other's countries without restrictions. If shared concerns about Iran's influence lie at the core of potential improved relations between Gulf Arab countries and Israel, Bahrain has a particular incentive to explore the possibilities since Iran has a history of claiming Bahrain as part of its own territory. Moreover, Bahrain is almost certainly acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia and some of its other GCC allies in taking the lead in exploring the potential for dialogue with Israel. Nonetheless, without any significant progress on Palestinian issues, the political space for such a dialogue will remain limited.

2017-11-03 00:00:00

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