Bahrain FM in Israel on 1st official visit from Gulf kingdom

Bahrain's foreign minister arrived in Israel Wednesday, November 18, on the first official visit from the Gulf kingdom, which normalized relations with the Jewish state in September.

The minister, Abdellatif al-Zayani, was welcomed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport by his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, a live Israeli television broadcast showed.

Bahrain and its Gulf neighbor the United Arab Emirates both signed US-sponsored normalization accords with Israel at the White House on September 15, pacts that were condemned as a "betrayal" by the Palestinians and their allies.

The agreements shattered a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalization with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Zayani was due to hold talks in Jerusalem later Wednesday with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was to arrive in Israel in the afternoon.

Pompeo, during his two-day visit, was expected to make the first visit by a senior US official to a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

All Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.

Their persistent expansion under successive Netanyahu-led governments has proved one of the biggest obstacles to the peace process with the Palestinians.

The United States has very close relations with Bahrain too. The tiny but strategic kingdom just across the Gulf from Iran is home to the US Fifth Fleet.

All 3 allies – Israel, Bahrain and the US – see the mainly Shiite Muslim regional power Iran as a common threat.

Zayani's visit is expected to be followed by others.

On Tuesday, November 17, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin sent an official invitation to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayad Al-Nahyan, seen by many as the UAE's de facto ruler. –