Tag: Israel/ Gulf

Bennett’s first visit to Bahrain feels perfectly normal

The Israeli prime minister visits Bahrain: It almost feels routine, without any major headlines,  argues Haaretz.

Prime minister Naftali Bennett meeting Bahraini ministers and officials

MANAMA – The most remarkable thing about Naftali Bennett’s short visit to Bahrain, the first-ever official visit by an Israeli prime minister to this small kingdom on the Persian Gulf, is how normal something that was unthinkable just a few years ago now seems.

The military guard of honor is immaculate, but there isn’t much fanfare. The security is adequate, but it’s not a major operation. The historic first visit feels perfectly normal. An Israeli leader took a short flight to an Arab country. Spent 24 hours there meeting the local leadership. Then he flew back. Almost a banal visit without any major headlines. Could it really be as simple as it sounds?

It has taken over four decades since Israel’s first peace agreement with an Arab country for its relations with some Arab countries to reach this level of normalcy. Relations with that first pioneer, Egypt, are still far from simple. Despite the rather touching sight of President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi personally greeting Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar at a conference this week, most of the engagement between the two countries remains between their militaries.

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Israel president pays historic visit to UAE

It was the first  visit by an Israeli president to the United Arab Emirates.  En route, Isaac Herzog ‘s plane overflew Saudi Arabia, which Israel hopes will be next to sign the Abraham Accords. Hamodia (via Reuters) reports:

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, making his first visit on Sunday to the United Arab Emirates, said his country supports the Gulf state’s security needs and wants more countries in the region to join its new detente with the Arab world.

Herzog discussed security and bilateral relations with the UAE’s de facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE has in the past two weeks been attacked twice with drones and missiles, claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group. Israel has responded by offering security and intelligence support to the UAE against further drone attacks.

“We completely support your security requirements … We are here together to find ways and means to bring full security to people who seek peace in our region,” Herzog said during the meeting.

Sheikh Mohammed said Israel and the UAE share a “common view of the threats to regional stability and peace, particularly those posed by militias and terrorist forces.”

En route to the UAE, Herzog’s plane flew over Saudi Arabia, which Herzog said was “a very moving moment.” Riyadh has not yet followed its Gulf neighbors in normalizing ties with Israel, but Israeli officials express hope this will happen.

“The Abraham Accords should be continued and more nations should join us,” Herzog said.

The heads of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and of the Israel Export Institute, traveling with Herzog, discussed a $10 billion fund set up under the Abraham Accords and how the UAE might help Israel find new Middle Eastern and Asian markets, the Association said.

Herzog was later invited for a follow-up personal meeting at the crown prince’s private palace.

“The previously unscheduled meeting was proposed by the Crown Prince at the end of his long and warm meeting with the president this morning,” according to Herzog’s office.

At the end of their meeting, Herzog surprised the crown prince with a special gift: the naming of a pediatric medicine conference at the Schneider Medical Center after the Abraham Accords.

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Jews must be ‘ loyal to Arab countries, not Israel’

Bahrain had its first Jewish wedding for over 50 years last month, when the son of Huda Noono, former Jewish Bahraini ambassador to the US, got married, before honeymooning in the UAE. It’s a reason for the Egyptian journalist Suleiman Gouda (via MEMRI) to hail Jews occupying high office in Arab countries as a sign of pluralism. Disappointingly, however,  he falls back on the old distinction between Jews and Zionists, which the Abraham Accords are meant to erase. (With thanks: Lily)

Huda Noonoo’s son married in October 2021 in the first Jewish wedding for 52 years

In an article in the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian journalist Suleiman Gouda writes with nostalgia about the Jewish presence that once existed in the Arab countries. Noting that Bahrain recently saw its first Jewish wedding in 52 years, he uses this as an opportunity to express his views on Jews from Arab countries, on normalization with Israel and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mentioning that this wedding was momentous not only because it was the first Jewish wedding in Bahrain in over a century, but also because the groom was the son of Houda Noono, Bahrain’s former ambassador in Washington, he states that Jews in high-ranking positions used to be a fairly common phenomenon in Arab countries. This is perfectly natural, he says, because Jews are citizens of these countries, no different from other citizens.

According to Gouda, the reversal in the attitude towards the Jews in Arab countries was caused by Israel’s policy, and that today there is confusion between a Jew, namely a follower of the monotheistic religion of Judaism, and an Israeli Jew, who espouses a political ideology that harms the rights of the Palestinian people. Stating that the true homeland of the Arab Jews is not Israel but rather the Arab countries in which they were born and raised, he contends that social pluralism is a source of strength and not a source of weakness.

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First Bahraini ambassador arrives in Israel

The Abraham Accords between Bahrain and Israel have culminated in the arrival in Israel of Bahrain’s first ambassador. The kingdom, which is coveted by Iran, is ruled by a Sunni elite governing a majority-Shi’a population. The Jerusalem Post reports:
The new Bahraini ambassador to Israel meets Foreign Ministry officials
Bahraini Ambassador Khaled Al Jalahma landed in Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday to take up his new post, in what his Foreign Ministry described as another “milestone” in deepening the ties between the two countries.
“A historic journey in the making accompanied by my wife. We are both very excited!” Jalahma tweeted. He posted photographs of their descent from the airplane to the tarmac.
“The opportunity to fulfill His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision of peaceful coexistence with all nations is a privilege that I will hold in high regard,” Jalahma tweeted.

Cairo Book Fair still purveying Antisemitism

The good news is that the Gulf States, bound by the Abraham Accords,are not pumping out antisemitism at their book fairs. The bad news is that Egypt, despite its Peace Accord with Israel, still displays  ‘hate literature’ at this year’s Cairo Book Fair. Article by Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the Jerusalem Post:

An Arabic edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Ziyon

The Simon Wiesenthal Center annually monitors the shelves of seven Arab Book Fairs for incitement to hatred and violence. We send our findings to the Frankfurt Book Fair, where measures are taken to ban the listed offenders. COVID-19 closed down some of the Arab fairs, but until last year, Abu Dhabi was among the offenders. This May, in the spirit of the Abraham Accords, that book fair was totally clean. This was not the case of Egypt, however, where the ongoing fair hosts 1,218 publishers in 756 stands representing 25 countries, led by Spain, whose ambassador recently waxed lyrical regarding Hispano-Arab literature.

At the same time, Egyptian author Mansour Abdel Hakim was signing at the Dar Al Kitab Al Arabi (House of the Arab Book) stand, the fourth volume in his series The Great Secrets of Freemasonry – The World Hidden Government (in English and in Arabic). This demeaning book takes you through various conspiracy theories and the beliefs they promote, including one that says Jews divided the world into two parts: masters and slaves.

Each year in Frankfurt we present The Worst Offender Award. In 2019, it went to Iran for its books for four-to-seven year old children extolling “shehada,” suicide martyrdom. The runner-up award went to Egypt for a plethora of questionable editions.

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Antisemitism plagues the Cairo Book Fair

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