By ILAN BEN ZION, Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s foreign minister headed to Bahrain on Thursday, the first high-level visit to the small Gulf state by a senior Israeli official since the signing last year of a landmark agreement to establish diplomatic ties.
Yair Lapid flew to Bahrain’s capital, Manama, for meetings with his Bahraini counterpart and to inaugurate Israel’s embassy. It will be the first official visit by an Israeli Cabinet member.
After Lapid lands, Bahrain carrier Gulf Air will launch its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv.
The Israeli diplomatic delegation was to meet with its Bahraini counterparts and sign a raft of agreements to further cement bilateral ties. The two countries had long enjoyed clandestine security ties over a shared distrust of regional rival Iran, but only last year took the relationship public.
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Israel established formal diplomatic relations with four Arab states last year as part of the U.S.-brokered “Abraham Accords.” Lapid has already visited the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and opened Israel’s diplomatic offices there since he became Israel’s foreign minister in June.
Bahrain’s first ambassador to Israel arrived earlier this month and presented his credentials to Israel’s figurehead president on the anniversary of the signing of the accords.
The deals to establish relations with Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco and the UAE were the first peace accords between Israel and Arab states in decades, after peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1995.
The deals enraged the Palestinians, who felt a betrayal of their national cause. They saw it as an abandonment of a longstanding commitment in the Arab world not to normalize relations with Israel until there was progress in resolving the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.
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