Israel and Bahrain on Sunday agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations, making the small Gulf country the fourth Arab state to normalize ties with Israel.
The US-brokered agreement capped a one-day visit by a high-level delegation of US and Israeli officials to Bahrain.
Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at a White House ceremony last month marking the “Abraham Accords,” a pair of US-brokered pacts with Israel.
While the UAE’s deal with Israel formally established ties, the agreement with Bahrain was less detailed and included a mutual pledge to follow suit.
Sunday’s visit appeared to complete that task, clearing the way for the countries to open embassies and exchange ambassadors in the coming months.
“It was indeed an historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries, to have fruitful bilateral relations in both fields,” Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said at the signing ceremony.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, led the delegations.
“Today we made the first formal step in bringing closer ties between the countries,” Ben-Shabbat said. “We were accepted with open arms, with warmth and cordiality.”
Bahraini civil society groups and opposition figures have spoken out against normalization with Israel.
The Islamic State group condemned the move toward normalization with Israel, identifying the UAE and Bahrain and also accusing Saudi Arabia of showing “subservience to crusaders” and Jews.
“Here now, the Jews have come to you and are walking freely in your streets and countries, feeling safe and secure with approval from your tyrants and supported by your edicts,” spokesman Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi said.
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