Israel minister ‘invited to 2019 confab in Bahrain’ amid growing Israeli-Arab ties
Story Code : 763520
“I myself received a personal invitation to Bahrain,” Eli Cohen told Israeli Army Radio on Monday, adding that the event was “in the realm of technology and high-tech.”
Reuters cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Cohen had been invited to the Startup Nations Ministerial slated for next April.
The official said the invitation from Manama had been relayed via Swiss officials.
Cohen’s comments came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his willingness to open diplomatic relations with Bahrain during a meeting visiting Chadian President Idriss Deby on Sunday, according to Israeli media.
A spokesman for Netanyahu’s office, Hani Marzuq, had also told the Knesset (Parliament) on Friday that the premier was scheduled to travel to Bahrain in the near future.
Netanyahu’s office rejected any such prospect, but on Sunday, the prime minister hinted during a press conference with Deby that he would soon visit unspecified Arab states.
Inside Bahrain, public opinion is largely opposed to Manama’s potential normalization of ties with Israel, which is viewed as a blow to Palestinian struggles against occupation. Several protests have been held in the Persian Gulf kingdom against normalization with Tel Aviv in parallel with the rallies against Bahrain's ruling family.
Israel has been trying to inch closer to the Arab world, especially the Persian Gulf’s littoral states in the hope of forming an alliance against what it calls a “common threat” from Iran.
Only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, have open diplomatic relations with Israel. The regime has recently stepped up its push to make its clandestine ties with other Arab governments public and establish formal relations with them.
The Arab capitals -- with Riyadh at the head -- have, for their part, been holding back-to-back meetings with Israeli officials and making unprecedented remarks in favor of Tel Aviv.
Raising eyebrows, Netanyahu visited Oman last month, meeting with the country’s Sultan Qaboos in Muscat.
The controversial visit, the first one by an Israeli prime minister to the sultanate since 1996, was kept secret until after Netanyahu returned to the occupied territories.
Netanyahu’s visit was followed by the participation of Israeli Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz in an international transport conference in Oman, where he pitched a railway project that would connect the Persian Gulf countries to the Mediterranean via the Israeli-occupied territories.