The King of Bahrain Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa has rejected a request by Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Manama, according to a source who informed the Arabic news site Elaph.
In response to Netanyahu’s request, Al Khalifa said: “The time has not yet come.”
The source, who refused to be named, claimed that Netanyahu recently sent a special envoy to Bahrain accompanied by three security officials under the pretence of informing Bahraini officials of a security threat. The offer was then made in the meeting in Bahrain’s capital Manama between the monarch and the Israeli envoy, proposing that King Hamad should welcome Netanyahu in August to discuss issues of mutual interest including security.
The source speculated that Netanyahu was looking to benefit from the meeting which would highlight the extent of normalisation with Gulf states ahead of Israel’s planned 17 September election.
The prime minister’s aide refused to comment on the revelation.
The news comes amid a time of increasing normalisation of relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, all of which have witnessed various visits by diplomats.
This “new relationship” has culminated in a number of visits by Israeli establishment figures to Gulf states, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In December Netanyahu boasted that, following his meeting with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Said in October, Israel had been granted permission to use Omani airspace. Although in practical terms Israel cannot take advantage of the offer in the absence of a similar agreement with Saudi Arabia – which separates the two countries – the move signifies an unprecedented level of cooperation between Muscat and Tel Aviv. Israel has also made diplomatic overtures to Bahrain, with some Israeli media outlets predicting that Bahrain will sign a peace treaty with Israel this year.