Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrived in Bahrain, which is the highest official visit at this level to the Gulf state, since the two countries established official relations last year.
Lapid, who landed at Bahrain International Airport on an Israel Airlines plane with an olive branch on the front, will open the Israeli embassy in Manama and hold talks with his Bahraini counterpart.
A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that the two sides will sign five memoranda of understanding, including cooperation agreements between hospitals and water and electricity companies.
The spokesman added that the main areas in which Bahrain wants to cooperate with Israel “are related to the economy and technology, and there are memoranda of understanding that will be signed Thursday in this regard.”
He said that 12 memoranda of understanding have been signed so far between the two countries, including agreements related to transportation, agriculture, communications, finance, water and Sheba Hospital.
Bahrain’s Gulf Air started its first direct commercial flight to Tel Aviv after Lapid’s arrival.
“We see Bahrain as an important partner at the bilateral level, and a bridge for cooperation with other countries in the region,” the Israeli spokesman said.
Lapid returns to Israel on Thursday evening.
Lapid is the main architect of the Israeli coalition government that ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed the Abraham Accords.
Lapid visited the UAE and Morocco after becoming foreign minister in June.
Bahrain and the UAE established relations with Israel last year in a US-brokered deal known as the Abraham Accords, in which Morocco and Sudan subsequently participated.
Observers believe that the relations between Israel and these countries are built on common commercial interests. As for the relations with the Gulf states, their main motive is concerns about Iran in addition to trade.
According to reports, the volume of trade with the UAE reached about half a billion dollars.
But there is growing anger in some quarters over this step, which ended decades of Arab consensus not to establish relations with Israel as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.
Demonstrators burned tires in the outskirts of Manama in the early hours of Thursday morning, which led to the spread of clouds of black smoke in the air, and the hashtag #Bahrain refuses, in Arabic, spread on social media.
Additional security measures were taken on the road leading to the airport, and no Israeli flags appeared on the main roads.
Opposition activists called for more protests later Thursday.
On the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords this month, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged to continue the Trump administration’s efforts.
“This administration will continue to build on the previous administration’s successful efforts to continue the normalization process forward,” Blinken said.
“We will encourage more countries to follow the example of the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. We want to expand the circle of peaceful diplomacy,” he added.
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