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Bahrain, Israel warm ties with muslim countries
Following a visit by Chad's President Idriss Déby to Israel on Israel is working to establish diplomatic ties with Bahrain. Government sources confirmed this to Israel’s Channel 2 and Walla! Warming up to Bahrain is part of Israel’s diplomatic push for ties with strategically located Muslim countries, but many are skeptical.
Israel already has diplomatic relations with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, but these relationships are often difficult and marred with distrust.
The news of a possibility of Bahrain tying the diplomatic not with Israel doesn’t seem to be popular.
“I don’t think that’s wise, to establish ties, normalize relationship with Israel at this moment,” says one middle-east-based commentator who doesn’t want to be mentioned by name.
“When we are going to have a government in Israel that is not interested in peace that is only interested in settlements, so I am against it.”
But in Israel, realpolitik rules. The country is desperate for recognition by its close neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen – to form a front against its arch enemy Iran.
In Israel, the Palestine issue is seen as an internal affair. “How can the Bahrainis help solving that problem?” asks Efraim Inbar, of the Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
Apart from that, anti-Israel sentiments in the region shouldn’t be standing in the way.
“I think you should distinguish between the elite and the people,” says Inbar.
“The people have been intoxicated with anti-Israeli propaganda, and they are subjected to Muslim anti-Semitism,
“But the elite [is] more politically oriented and they see Israel as an ally against Iran.
“Eventually what count is strategic interests, economic interests, and people overcome their religious tendencies, if they are not extremist or radical,” he says.
Bahrain is very close to Iran geographically. Its population is a majority Shia, but its leadership, run by the Sunni House of Khalifa, rules by force.
Bahrain also harbors the port of the Fifth Fleet, the biggest US naval base in the region.
But linking up diplomatically with Israel won’t change anything in the regional security situation, says the middle-east based analyst.
“The Israelis, they are pushing this line, there is absolutely nothing that Israel can provide us in terms of more security to the region.
“We have been confronting Iran for the past 37 years on our own, so we really don’t need Israel to help us,” he says.
For Israel, ties with Bahrain would represent another step in trying and establish ties with strategically located Muslim countries.
In October, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a surprise visit to Oman, meeting with its leader Qaboos bin Said al Said.
And Israel is reportedly also trying to establish a diplomatic relationship with Sudan in order to allow Israeli airplanes to fly over their airspace, thereby shortening the flight routes from Brazil to Israel that are due to start in December.