Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Bahrain’s capital Manama on Monday, marking the first such trip by an Israeli leader to the Persian Gulf country.
Bennett was greeted at the airport by a military band playing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, before talks with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the Prime Minister Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. The two sides discussed “expanding strategic and security relations to address regional challenges, including nuclear threats, terrorist activity, and religious extremism,” according to the Bahraini Foreign Minister.
The Israeli Prime Minister also made time to meet with leaders of the small Jewish community in Bahrain and gave a speech to university students. “The fault lines [in the Middle East] used to be between Arabs and Israelis. But now, the fault lines are between agents of terror and chaos — and people of hope,” Bennett remarked.
Before leaving, the Israeli prime minister also visited with officers from the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, which he praised as a stabilizing force in the region. Media reports also suggest that Israel will dispatch a navy liaison to the 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, the first such representative stationed in an Arab country.
Bennett’s trip comes shortly after Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bahrain earlier this month. That framework agreement outlined intelligence sharing, military-to-military cooperation, and defense industrial collaboration between the two nations.
Israel has continued to enhance cooperation with other Arab neighbors who have also signed the Abraham Accords. Late last year, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel joined the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command for military training in the Red Sea. In addition, the UAE may buy Iron Dome missile defense batteries from Israel to counter rocket and drone launches from Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. Reports also suggest that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will provide the Moroccan army with the Barak MX air and missile defense system in a deal worth more than $500 million.