Twenty-six years after Bahrain first welcomed an Israeli delegation, the small archipelago of the Gulf last week it became the last Arab country to agree to normalize its relations with Israel.
It wasn’t a surprise. Ever since US President Donald Trump announced on August 13 that the UAE and Israel had agreed to establish diplomatic ties, there had been widespread speculation that Bahrain would be next.
Despite Bahrain declaring last month when he was committed to the creation of a Palestinian state, the island state would always follow the cause of the UAE “once the taboo was broken”
Home to the US Navy’s regional headquarters and connected to Saudi Arabia by a 25km (16 mile) causeway, Bahrain has in recent years appeared less reluctant to publicize its relations with Israel.
In February 2017, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met with Jewish leaders in the United States and reportedly expressed opposition to the boycott of Israel by Arab countries. In the same year, This is Bahrain, supported by the government interreligious group it sparked outrage among Palestinians when he visited Israel just days after Trump announced his controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. embassy there.
Friday’s deal with Israel was accused by the Palestinians as yet another betrayal by an Arab state, further undermining their efforts to achieve self-determination and leaving them isolated under a new framework of regional “peace” dictated by the Trump administration that also sees Iran as malice.
“There is no question that this represents a major blow to the Palestinians – and the bleak feeling that their cause is no longer a priority for the Arab regimes,” Black said.
The Palestinian leadership wants an independent state based on de facto borders before the 1967 war, in which Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip and annexed them. East Jerusalem. Arab countries have been asking for a long time Israel’s withdrawal from a land already illegally occupied, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and a solution that leads to the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state in exchange for establishing links with it.
While regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia and Iran’s archenemy has so far signaled it is not ready to take the same step, analysts say the recent deals would not have happened without his support.
Bahrain’s political agenda is “practically dictated by Saudi Arabia,” according to Marwa Fatafta, a political member of the Al-Shabaka Palestinian political network.
At the end of 2018, A few months before Manama agreed to host a US-led conference to unveil the economic side of Trump’s so-called plan for the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have pledged $ 10 billion in financial support to Bahrain to stabilize its finances.
In addition to being “financially dependent on its neighbors,” Bahrain’s new alliance with Israel could help it strengthen its power and “crush any resistance to authoritarianism or efforts towards freedom and democracy,” Fatafta said.
In 2011, during the start of the Arab Spring riots, Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain to crack down on anti-government protests. Many of those who mobilized against the Bahraini monarch came from the majority of the country’s Shiite population who complained for a long time about the repression.
Hence, joining the US-led bandwagon could also provide the Bahraini monarchy with “continued protection against its own people,” he said. Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of the Jadaliyya publication.
In normalizing ties with Israel, Bahrain is ensuring that it has gained an ally that is “equally” committed to maintaining the status quo and preventing the success of any popular uprisings, “he said.
On Sunday, Bahrain’s top Shiite leader Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, who lives overseas, rejected recent normalization agreements with Israel and urged people in the region to resist.
Bahrain is the Gulf monarchy “most at odds with its own people,” he said Rabbani.
‘Common geopolitical interests’
Strengthening the status quo also means identifying other major players in the region, such as the Shia clerical state Iran and even Turkey, according to analysts.
“The United States and Israel have launched a global campaign to remove the issue of Palestine not only from the international but also the regional agenda, and to replace the Arab-Israeli conflict with an Arab-Iranian conflict,” Rabbani said.
At a time of regional upheaval, these Gulf states are driven by a desire to “consolidate their relations with Washington, “he added.
Black said Bahrain is more concerned with “pleasing Washington,” but he also noted that mutual hostility towards Iran is a key part of emerging alliances.
Fatafta also believes that the collaboration comes with “common geopolitical interests”.
“They found in Israel a strong ally against their number one enemy: Iran, “he said.
For some of these states, the Iranian “threat” has grown in recent years, perhaps too rapidly in neighboring Yemen, as well as in Syria and Lebanon, which border Israel.
In Yemen, Saudi Arabia remains locked in a war waged since March 2015 against Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels, while in Syria, delegates from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah fight in support of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – a faithful ally of Iran.
Saudi Arabia, which earlier this month said it will allow all flights between the UAE and Israel to pass through its airspace, continues to hold the key to determining which countries could follow in Bahrain’s footsteps and of the United Arab Emirates.
“You have to distinguish between the different Gulf states,” Black said. “Qatar and Kuwait are unlikely to follow the Emirati example. The key is Saudi Arabia which has reaffirmed its commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative,” he added, referring to the 2002 plan that defined the conditions of the Arab countries for the normalization of ties with Israel.
“But that stance may change in the future,” Black said.
Retrieve the PLO
A ceremony for the signing of the agreements between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which normalize diplomatic, commercial, security and other relations, will be held on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
“The opening of dialogue and direct links between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity in the region,” a joint statement by States said last week. United, Bahrain and Israel.
Now, it seems unlikely that the long-stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership will resume under the US compromised Oslo accords, signed in the 1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
While Oslo has done little to help the Palestinians, Israel has moved to further strengthen its control over the occupied Palestinian territories, with support from Washington. Earlier this year, Trump’s so-called Middle East plan kicked off Israel’s annexation of large swathes of the occupied West Bank, including illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley, giving Israel a permanent eastern border along the Jordan River.
“If a viable two-state solution is no longer on the regional and international agenda, then there is no other viable solution to end the occupation,” Black said.
Fatafta agreed that Oslo’s diplomatic path by Palestinian leaders has failed and said Palestinians must “reclaim the PLO” if they wish to achieve self-determination.
Rabbani also said that there will be no change if there is not “a global restructuring and reconstruction of the national movement on the basis of a total disengagement from the structures and relationships developed on the basis of the Oslo accords”.
“It’s a tall order, not an impossible one, but it will never happen until the current leadership passes or is forced to leave the scene.”