President Trump succeeds in extracting green light from Saudi Arabia to promote normalization with Israel.
A New Pact in the Middle East
The decision of Hemed Melech Bahrain – contrary to what he said last week – to run for normalization with Israel, indicates a different development. As important as it is in itself, the main implication of the decision is that the Trump administration has managed to extract from Saudi Arabia a green light to the small island state, which is completely dependent on Riyadh. In the face of this significant Saudi signal, there is already an Iranian signal: a warning that the Islamic Revolutionary authorities will encourage the Shiite majority, of two million Bahraini residents, to protest the move and perhaps even initiate terrorist attacks as has not been the case in the past.
The King of Bahrain has been in preparations for making peace with Israel for more than three years. The semi-secret contacts with Israel continued throughout this period, but it was precisely the public signals that came from Manama that were of an interesting nature.
Rabbis’ Marvin Haier and Abe Cooper, heads of the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who have also been building a large museum of tolerance in the heart of Jerusalem in recent years, have played a key role. In February 2017, the two were invited to King Hemed’s palace. The airman held the king’s hand, which was not according to the protocol – and greeted him in Hebrew. After the meeting the king told his advisers that this was the first time anyone had come to greet him and not ask him for anything. At that meeting it became clear that both the rabbi and the king were great followers of Frank Sinatra. The king made it clear that he would indeed he would not act against Israel, as in Sinatra’s song “In My Way,” as opposed to other world leaders.
Immediately afterwards, the king published the “Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance” and sent his son, Regent Sheikh Nasser, to read the declaration to 400 members of all religions in Los Angeles. The continuation was expressed in the establishment of a small synagogue in the capital for the 40 Jews who still live on the island and who generally preferred to pray in their homes. The highlight was the day after Trump announced the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem: a delegation of 24 clerics and figures from Bahrain’s cultural world arrived, with the king’s encouragement, for the first time for an open visit to Israel. They were cursed as they ascended the Al-Aqsa Mosque and ended their visit by lighting Hanukkah candles at the foot of the Old City Wall.
The Possibility of Peace
The Bahraini authorities were ready and willing to take the final step, but had to wait for the approval of the Saudis – whose country is linked to Bahrain by a wide bridge. From the moment this approval was given, the Bahraini presented to Jared Kushner and his men not exaggerated demands regarding American guarantees for their safety and financial assistance. As far as is known, at no stage did any claims arise from them on the Palestinian issue. Anyone who reads the opinion pieces in Bahrain’s major newspaper, Akhbar al-Khalij, will soon discover a negative and even insulting attitude towards the current Palestinain leadership in Ramallah.
We will now have to keep a close eye on how the Iranians will react and whether they will be content with condemnations and insults, or take other steps. Recall that for many years Iran claimed sovereignty over Bahrain. King Hemed is also worried about the reaction of Qatar, a close neighbor of Bahrain and that there is a historic conflict between them. The locomotives are already attacking Bahrain with all their noisy propaganda machine, but they may do well beyond that. This is with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which in recent years has been under joint Qatari-Turkish auspices.
After the ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, the question of the direction in which the King of Saudi Arabia will move will be re-examined. Recall that three years ago, Saudi Arabia actually became a third, silent party to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. With the return of sovereignty with the islands of Tiran and San from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have already undertaken in writing to respect all clauses of the peace treaty relating to free shipping in the Straits of Tiran, coming to Eilat.