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Israeli PM arrives in Bahrain in first visit

Israeli PM arrives in Bahrain in first visit

Israel’s outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (middle left) shakes hands with his successor Naftali Bennett, after a special session to vote on a new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: VCG

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Bahrain’s capital Manama on Monday in the highest-level visit since the countries established relations under a 2020 US-sponsored deal based in part on shared worries about Iran.

Bennett will meet with Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, his office said.

“The leaders will discuss additional ways to strengthen bilateral ties… especially the advancement of diplomatic and economic issues, with an emphasis on technology and innovation,” Bennett’s office said in a statement.

The two-day trip to Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Gulf headquarters, comes amid heightened tensions after missile attacks on the neighboring United Arab Emirates by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis. Israel also normalized ties with the UAE in 2020.

Speaking to reporters before take-off, Bennett said he hoped the visit would be a “message of goodwill… and a shared stance against common threats.”

Israel has stepped up cooperation with the Gulf states. Manama hosted Israel’s defense minister on February 2 and has said an Israeli military officer will be posted in Bahrain as part of an international coalition.

The outreach by Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarch has been criticized by an opposition led by the Shi’ite majority.

The country has seen protests in solidarity with the Palestinians.

There were brief protests in several Shi’ite villages ahead of Bennett’s visit, activists told Reuters.