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Israel entrepreneurs, officials to speak in Bahrain

Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2018 in Istanbul [GEC]
Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2018 in Istanbul [GEC]

Several Israeli speakers are set to feature at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Bahrain later this month, a sign of growing normalisation between the Gulf states and Israel.

According to the forum’s website, at least three Israeli speakers, including Anya Aldin, the Israel Innovation Authority’s deputy chief, are slated to speak in Manama, in a move condemned by Bahraini MPs yesterday.

“Parliament stresses its support for the just cause of the brotherly Palestinian people, and it will remain a priority for the Bahraini and Arab people,” it said in a statement published on its official Facebook page.

“The end of the Israeli occupation and the withdrawal from all Arab land is an absolute necessity for the stability and security of the region and for a fair and comprehensive peace.”

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with only Egypt and Jordan, and the suggestion of normalisation is regularly rejected by the Arab public in other countries in the region.

However the growing influence of Iran has pushed several Gulf states closer to Tel Aviv; last May, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, stated that Israel had a right to “defend itself” after Israel acknowledged that its army had struck dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria.

Read: UK conference calls for criminalising normalising relations with Israel

In February, a leaked video from a panel discussion at the Warsaw Conference also revealed Al Khalifa arguing that confronting “the Iranian threat” was more important than dealing with the Israel-Palestine issue.

“We have grown up saying that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most important issue, and it must be resolved in this way or that, but in the final stages we have seen a greater challenge, the most serious in our modern history, the threat of the Iranian Republic,” Al Khalifa said.

The video also featured Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed participating in the discussion; both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have expressed growing support for mending relations with Tel Aviv.

Last week, Emirati foreign affairs official Anwar Gargash condemned Arab unity around the Palestinian cause, claiming that it was “a very wrong decision” for neighbouring states not to have normal diplomatic relations with Israel.

Gargash added that he was expecting “increased contact” between Arab countries and Israel through various bilateral deals and officials’ visits. He urged for what he described as a “strategic shift” between Israel and regional governments.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Arab officials have acknowledged on various occasions that covert channels of communication with Israel are maintained, and that they are waiting for the appropriate moment to admit the relationship publicly.

Read: Arab leaders condemn US decision on Golan; agree on Palestinian state for stability

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