Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa over the weekend defended Australia’s decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The foreign minister suggested the Australian move did not affect the chances of the Palestinian Authority to gain statehood, seeing as the same Australian government—or its successor—could recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of said state.
But this very rational argument of al-Khalifa is far from being the accepted norm anywhere in the Muslim world. The fact is that two of Australia’s biggest trade partners, Malaysia and Indonesia, both of which are Muslim without being Arab, have voiced their fierce objection to PM Scott Morrison’s decision. To the vast majority of Muslims, the very existence of a Jewish state is a violation of everything that’s sacred. Which makes Bahrain’s stand extremely unusual and extremely brave.
Earlier this month, after Israel launched Operation Northern Shield, to demolish the Hezbollah terror tunnels along the Lebanese border (four have been captured so far), al-Khalifa called the tunnels a “flagrant threat” to Lebanon’s stability. And before that, he announced that Israel has the right to defend itself against Iran, the source of all evil in the Middle east, if you ask the people of Bahrain.
Like the majority of Arab and Muslim nations, Bahrain does not recognize Israel. The first ever official Israeli delegation visited Bahrain in 1994 and Yossi Sarid, then Israel’s Minister for the Environment, took part in regional discussions on environmental issues and met with Bahrain’s foreign minister.
In 2011, Haaretz reported a meeting between the US ambassador and Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in 2005, in which the ruler had bragged about his contact with Israel’s Mossad.
In 2017, the king denounced the Arab League’s boycott of Israel and began steps to normalize relations. In May 2018, Bahrain officially recognized Israel’s right to exist.
In late November 2018, an anonymous senior Israeli official told reporters Israel is in the process of normalizing its ties with Bahrain. The revelation came shortly after Prime Minister Netanyahu said he would soon visit some Arab states with whom Israel had not as of yet establish diplomatic relations.
Bahrain would be the fourth Arab country and first Arab Gulf state to establish relations with the Jewish State, following Egypt in 1980, the Palestinian National Authority in 1993, and Jordan in 1994.