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.


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 40 min 36 sec ago

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassim Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).