In defiance of Bahraini people’s vehement opposition, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has arrived in Bahrain to mark the first visit to the small Persian Gulf country by a senior Israeli official a year after the signing of the so-called Abraham Accords to establish diplomatic relations.
He touched down at Manama airport, where the first commercial flight between Bahrain and Israel took off shortly afterward, for meetings with top Bahraini authorities and to inaugurate Israel’s embassy there.
Lapid’s visit to Bahrain is aimed at advancing the US-pushed normalization deals between Israel and a number of Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. He is set to open the Israeli embassy in Manama.
The Israeli top diplomat has already opened the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and promised to establish the regime’s embassy in Rabat soon. However, Sudan’s foreign minister said over the weekend that her country has no plans to open an Israeli embassy in Khartoum.
Palestinians have denounced the normalization agreements with Israel as a "stab in the back" of their cause.
Across the region, the agreements have provoked a furious backlash, with people condemning the Israeli regime’s continued atrocities against Palestinians and slamming as “treacherous” any ties with the regime.
On the outskirts of Manama, protesters burned tires early on Thursday to voice their anger at Lapid’s visit.
On social media, the hashtag #BahrainRejectsZionists in Arabic was circulating against the move.
During Lapid’s visit, Bahrain and Israel are scheduled to sign a number of agreements to further cement bilateral ties, including economic deals and cooperation between hospitals and water companies.
“We see Bahrain as an important partner, both in the bilateral level but also as a bridge to cooperation with other countries in the region,” said Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Earlier this month, on the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged to “keep normalization marching forward.”
“We will encourage more countries to follow the lead of the Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco,” Blinken said.
Normalization is a ‘disgusting betrayal’, says Sheikh Qassim
Ahead of Lapid’s trip, Bahrain’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, declared the trip as a “threat”, saying, “This is provocative news and this trip is completely rejected, and he (Lapid) should not set foot on Bahraini soil.”
“Any [Israeli] presence on Bahraini soil means inciting the Bahrainis’ feelings, a desperate attempt to break their word and will, and at the same time, a great transgression of their right in crucial and principled issues,” al-Wefaq said in a statement.
Al-Wefaq noted that the Manama regime, which invited the Israeli regime to Bahrain, has no right and was not authorized by the Bahraini people to establish relations with Israel.
Therefore, the group continued, any communication or relations are rejected, condemned and denounced.
Bahrain’s most prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim also denounced the Manama regime’s normalization with Israel as a “disgusting betrayal” and a “political war” waged by Bahrain’s ruling regime against the country’s people.
In remarks published via his Twitter account, the spiritual leader of al-Wefaq said the move is accompanied by intimidation, poverty, imprisonment, displacement, humiliation, marginalization and deprivation of the rights of the Bahraini people.
التطبيعُ الخيانيُّ الخسيسُ مع العدوّ الصهيونيّ واحدٌ من حروب السياسة الحكوميّة في البحرين على الشعب، مع الإخافة، والإفقار، والسجن، والتهجير، والإذلال، والتهميش، وسَلب الحقوق.— آية الله الشيخ عيسى قاسم (@AyatollahQassim) September 29, 2021
كان اللهُ في عون هذا الشعب.
Bahrain insists on its identity in the face of the ruling regime’s policy, and this resistance will last, he added.