Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in Bahrain for first official visit

Official trip follows visit by Israel's Defence Minister Benny Gantz this month

Naftali Bennett, pictured in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, is visiting Bahrain. Reuters
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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett landed in Bahrain on Monday to discuss strengthening regional diplomacy in his first visit to the Gulf state.

Mr Bennett will hold meetings with Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad in what is the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the Gulf state.

The sides will discuss the importance of peace, advancement and prosperity in the region, and especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation, a statement from his office said.

Mr Bennett's office said the prime minister met his Bahrani counterpart, Crown Prince Salman at the UN Climate Change Conference held in November in Glasgow. It said the regent invited the prime minister for his first official visit to the country.

Israel and Bahrain agreed to normalise ties in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, a series of regional agreements which also saw Israel establish relations with the UAE, Morocco and Sudan.

In September 2020, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made the first official visit to Bahrain by an Israeli cabinet member since the states normalised ties.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz this month visited Bahrain to sign a major security co-operation agreement.

The pact "will support any future co-operation in the areas of intelligence, [military to military], industrial collaboration and more", the Israeli Defence Ministry said.

Mr Gantz also met King Hamad to discuss the agreement.

In June, Bahrain appointed its first envoy to Israel, Khaled Yousef Al Jalahma and the following month the two countries agreed on a framework for economic co-operation.

In September, Mr Al Jalahma became the country's official ambassador to Israel, an event that also marked the first anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords.

The economic framework agreement focused on strengthening bilateral trade in the private sector and setting standards for a smooth exchange of goods and services, as well as creating a joint economic committee. It also envisioned co-operation on research and development, particularly in the tech sector.

More exchanges to improve business ties followed, including a 40-member business delegation from Bahrain visiting Israel in December 2020.

The Israeli Ministry of trade said at the time that potential bilateral trade could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years.

Updated: February 14, 2022, 3:05 PM