Feb. 14 (UPI) — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday became the first Israeli leader to make an official visit to Bahrain.
Bennett was greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani and Industry Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Rashid Al-Zayani as he arrived in the capital Manama to kick of the 24-hour visit.
The prime minister is also set to meet with Bahrain’s ruler, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and its crown prince and prime minister, Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.
“This is an exciting event,” Bennett said as he prepared to depart for the trip. “During this stormy period it is important that from our region there comes a message of cooperation, goodwill and a joint stand against threats.”
Israel established formal ties with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in September 2020 under an agreement known as the Abraham Accords.
Bennett’s office said the meeting with the country’s leaders Tuesday will place a focus on deepening the bilateral relationship between the countries.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is credited with brokering the initial deals with Bahrain and other Arab countries and.
Though he was, however, forced to cancel three visits to the UAE and Bahrain last winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic and apprehensiveness from the countries’ leaders regarding involvement with his re-election campaign.
The groundwork for Monday’s visit was established last year when Salman invited Bennett to visit the country in November as they met on the sidelines of the COP26 climate conference.
Earlier this month, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz also visited Bahrain to sign a memorandum of understanding with his counterpart in the country establishing they will “help advance intelligence cooperation, a framework for exercises and cooperation between the countries’ defense industries.”