Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem February 13, 2022. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
February 14, 2022
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will travel to Bahrain on Monday in the highest-level visit since the countries established relations under a 2020 U.S.-sponsored deal based in part on shared worries about Iran.
Bennett will meet with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, his office said.
“The leaders will discuss additional ways to strengthen bilateral ties…especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation,” it said in a statement.
The two-day trip to Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Gulf headquarters, comes amid heightened tensions after missile attacks on neighbouring United Arab Emirates by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis. Israel also normalised ties with UAE in 2020.
Israel has stepped up cooperation with the Gulf states. Manama hosted Israel’s defence minister on Feb. 2 and has said an Israeli military officer will be posted in Bahrain as part of an international coalition.
On the commercial front, Israel has reported rising trade with Bahrain that reached $6.5 billion last year. There are direct flights between the countries.
The outreach by Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarch has been criticised by an opposition led by the Shi’ite majority. The country has seen protests in solidarity with the Palestinians.
(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch and Angus MacSwan)