Israel, Bahrain sign deal establishing formal ties

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Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin arrive in Muharraq, Bahrain, October 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Head of Israel's National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat delivers a statement upon his arrival at the Bahraini International Airport on October 18, 2020. (AFP)
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Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, deliver statements upon the Israeli delegation's arrival in Muharraq, Bahrain October 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 October 2020

Israel, Bahrain sign deal establishing formal ties

  • US, Israeli and Bahraini flags festooned the tarmac before take-off
  • Israel's commercial El Al flight 973 — a nod to the international dialing code for Bahrain — flew to Manama

JERUSALEM: Israel and Bahrain on Sunday agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations, making the 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 American and Israeli officials to Bahrain.
Bahrain joined the UAE at a festive White House ceremony last month marking the “Abraham Accords,” a pair of US-brokered diplomatic 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,” said Bahrain's foreign minister, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, at the signing ceremony.
US Treasury Secretary 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.”
“This is an important step in stability in the region, in bring prosperity to all the people in the region and in the countries,” added Mnuchin.

Mnuchin and Ben-Shabbat were received at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama by the country’s deputy prime minister.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa said the normalization of relations between Bahrain and Israel "confirms King Hamad’s commitment to peace as a strategic option” through which stability, prosperity and peace could be achieved in the region.

Sheikh Mohammed added that this would ensure the success of efforts to achieve a solution to the Palestinian issue through a two-state solution, international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Israel’s agreements with the UAE and Bahrain have marked diplomatic victories for the Trump administration and for Netanyahu.
But they have come under heavy criticism from the Palestinians, who have long counted on a unified Arab stance that recognition of Israel should come only after the Palestinians achieve an independent state of their own. The agreements reflect a shifting Middle East, in which shared concerns about Iran and business opportunities have overshadowed the Palestinian issue.
The Palestinians have severed ties with the White House, accusing it of being unfairly biased toward Israel. U.S. officials have in turn cultivated ties between Israel and Arab states, hoping to increase pressure on the Palestinians to reduce past demands in peace talks.
Israel’s commercial El Al flight was fiven the code 973 — a nod to the international dialing code for Bahrain.
The El Al flight landed at Bahrain International Airport on Sunday afternoon. 
Egypt and Jordan are the only other two Arab states to sign diplomatic treaties with Israel, in 1979 and 1994, respectively.


Palestinian official Erekat in critical, stable condition

Updated 20 October 2020

Palestinian official Erekat in critical, stable condition

  • Erekat was receiving artificial respiration in the intensive care unit at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center
  • He was a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas

JERUSALEM: Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat remained in critical but stable condition in an Israeli hospital Tuesday, his family said, after he was infected with the coronavirus.
Erekat’s family told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that he was receiving artificial respiration in the intensive care unit at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center.
Erekat, 65, has been one of the Palestinians’ most recognizable faces over the past several decades, serving as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel. He was also a senior adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas.
He was hospitalized Sunday at the Jerusalem hospital despite the Palestinian leadership’s decision earlier this year to sever ties with Israel over plans to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank as part of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan.
The hospital said Monday that Erekat’s case was extremely challenging in light of his history of health problems, including a lung transplant in 2017. It said he suffered from a weak immune system, and a bacterial infection in addition to COVID-19.