Israel and Bahrain were on Friday night expected to strike a historic peace deal brokered by Donald Trump, following a similar accord with the United Arab Emirates, as the US president brings together former foes in the Middle East.
According to Israeli media reports, Mr Trump was due to make the announcement last night and may also invite Bahrain to attend a signing ceremony with Israel and the UAE in Washington.
Neither the White House, nor the governments of Israel or Bahrain, issued an immediate response to the reports last night.
If confirmed, Bahrain would be the second Gulf state to embrace Israel, after the UAE announced on 13 August that it would establish a full diplomatic relationship with the Jewish state and strike a series of trade deals.
A small, oil-rich nation in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and is also broadly supportive of President Trump’s tough stance on Iran.
Next Tuesday Mr Netanyahu and his Emirati counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed, are due to attend a signing ceremony in Washington to finalise the details of their accord.
It has been speculated that Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, may attend the same ceremony to confirm the new relationship.
Under the terms of the UAE-Israel deal, Israel agreed to suspend its controversial plans to annex up to 30 per cent of the West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as their own land. Emirati officials say it was the threat of annexation that brought them to the negotiating table.
Both the UAE and Bahrain share some common ground on security issues with Israel and the United States, as they are all concerned about the growing influence of the Iranian regime in the Middle East.
Analysts say President Trump is seeking to style himself as the world’s peacemaker ahead of elections in November, having also secured an economic partnership between Serbia and Kosovo last week that may thaw relations between the former Balkan enemies.
Mr Trump had hinted during a press conference on Thursday that a second Arab nation was due to follow the UAE’s lead, prompting speculation that it would either be Bahrain or Oman.
“You’ll be hearing other countries coming in over a relatively short period of time. And you could have peace in the Middle East,” he said at the time.
Jordan already has a peace agreement with Israel, which was signed in 1994, while Egypt struck a peace deal with Israel in 1979.
But other Muslim-majority countries have reacted with frustration and concern about the new alliance which is beginning to emerge in the Middle East.
Iran branded the UAE-Israel accord an act of “strategic stupidity,” while Turkey threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the UAE over the move.
Saudi Arabia issued a more lukewarm statement about the agreement and said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needed to be resolved before the Kingdom would normalise relations.
Palestinian leaders have also strongly rejected President Trump’s deals in the Middle East, insisting that Arab nations should only embrace Israel after the creation of a Palestinian state.
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