Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah has reportedly held a secret meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu in Hungary, in the latest significant sign of warming ties between a number of Persian Gulf littoral states and the Tel Aviv regime after years of clandestine relations.
The Britain-based and Arabic-language Bahrain al-Youm news agency, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, reported that the meeting was held in April, when the 69-year-old Bahraini monarch paid a visit to the Hungarian capital city of Budapest under the guise of holding talks with President Janos Ader and strengthening bilateral relations.
The source added that the meeting was held as a preparatory event for the so-called Peace to Prosperity workshop, which opened in Bahrain on June 25 and ran through the following day.
The Palestinian leadership boycotted the meeting, prompting critics to question the credibility of the event.
The secret meeting between the Bahraini ruler and Netanyahu was described as intimate, and took place while the Israeli prime minister was on holiday with his family. The holiday was cut short for a day. Netanyahu traveled to Budapest to meet King Hamad, and then returned the same day without any media coverage, the diplomat pointed out.
The source went on to say that the Bahraini king had expressed his great satisfaction with the meeting, stating that the relations with Israel must develop beyond diplomatic ties, and that he is looking forward to the formation of alliance in various political, security and military fields with the Tel Aviv regime against Iran.
During the meeting, King Hamad stressed that he represents Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their aspirations towards forging relations with Israel, and that the security of the Tel Aviv regime is the security of the Arab littoral states of the Persian Gulf.
Netanyahu, for his part, praised the Bahraini king and his initiatives to normalize relations Israel. The Israeli prime minister also admired Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his outright aggressive policy towards Iran, the diplomat said.
The report comes as the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement, Hamas, has strongly censured the participation of an Israeli delegation in a forthcoming US-led maritime security meeting in Bahrain.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said in a statement on Sunday that attempts to “integrate the Israeli Occupation into the region are doomed to fail.”
He blamed the parties that “normalize relations with Israel for Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”
أول تعقيب من حماس حول مشاركة وفد للاحتلال بمؤتمر أمني بالبحرين
Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Saturday that an Israeli delegation will attend the two-day summit in the Bahraini capital of Manama, which will run on October 21-22 and its main agenda is what its sponsors describe as “the Iranian threat” in the Persian Gulf.
The event will be a follow-up to the US-led anti-Iran conference held in the Polish capital of Warsaw in February.
Speaking in an interview with the English-language The Times of Israel daily newspaper on the sidelines of the US-led economic workshop in Manama on June 26, Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah recognized Israel’s “right to existence,” saying the regime was “there to stay, of course.”
“Who did we offer peace to [with] the [Arab] Peace Initiative? We offered it to … Israel … We want better relations with it, and we want peace with it,” Khalifah added.
He pointed to the so-called Arab Peace Initiative as the blueprint for normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel, terming the Tel Aviv regime’s rejection of the plan as a “missed opportunity.”
The Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, calls on Israel to agree to a two-state solution along the 1967 lines and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The initiative has been repeatedly endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, 2007, and 2017.
The Bahraini foreign minister further encouraged Israel to approach Arab leaders about issues of concern regarding the proposal.
“Come and talk to us. Talk to us about it. Say, guys, you have a good initiative, but we have one thing that worries us,” he said.
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