President Donald Trump said Friday that Israel and Bahrain have agreed to the “establishment of full diplomatic relations,” marking the second time in a month an Arab Gulf nation has announced new ties with the Jewish state and further reshaping alliances in the Middle East.
Unveiling the new agreement from the Oval Office, Trump cast the move as a step toward peace in the region. He has worked to broker accords between Arab nations and Israel that he hopes will lead to a broader peace deal.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today!” Trump tweeted.
The announcement came less than a week ahead of a White House signing ceremony between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that will bring Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati officials to Washington.
As a condition of that agreement, Netanyahu agreed to shelve plans for now to annex sections of the West Bank. He has not ruled out resuming the annexation in the future.Bahrain’s foreign minister will join Israel and the UAE for the signing ceremony currently scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the statement from Trump.
The announcement comes two months ahead of the US presidential election, where Trump hopes his efforts to forge foreign agreements will help sway voters. He has touted his support for Israel to Evangelicals in particular.Bahrain, a tiny island nation that is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is regarded in some ways as an extension of Saudi Arabia, partly because they are physically linked by a causeway but also because the Bahraini monarchy is heavily reliant on Riyadh.
Officials said the agreement with Israel announced on Friday could likely not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s blessing, signaling that Bahrain may serve as a test case for a future Saudi-Israel deal. Bahrain was home to one of the major popular uprisings during the Arab Spring, leading to a brutal crackdown by Saudi Arabia, which sent tanks over the causeway to crush the protests.
Bahrain, a small nation with significantly less natural wealth than some of its Arab Gulf neighbors, sits only 60 kilometers from Iran. Home to a Shiite majority ruled by Sunni sheikhs, Bahrain sees major benefit in this anti-Iran solidarity effort brokered by the United States.