According to media reports, Israel and Bahrain are on a path to normalize their relations by 2018.
Israel is the world's only Jewish state. The Jews staked claim for a land of their own due to religious reasons. They trace their origins to Abraham, who they consider as their patriarch. In the immediate aftermath of the creation of Israel, a war between Arab nations and Israel took place. The Arabs were initially on the offensive but their military resources dried up when the UN declared an arms embargo on the region.
Major wars such as the War of Attrition, Yom Kippur War and the Gaza War have been fought over the years. Nearly every effort by the international community to establish peace in the region has failed.
Over the years, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have all recognized the state of Israel since its creation. However, many Gulf nations like the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain do not have official diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Over the years, the relationship between Israel and Bahrain has thawed. In 2016, an unnamed Bahraini princess was provided life-saving treatment in Israel. At the time, Israel’s Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara said that he would be meeting officials from Bahrain.
Relations between the two countries has become warmer in 2017. Bahrain recently announced that it will allow its citizens to visit Israel in the near future. It has also been reported that Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was opposed to the boycott initiated by the Arab nations on Israel.
According to media reports, the two nations will work towards normalizing their relations by next year. This is largely due to their mutual distrust of Iran. However, it is unlikely that this normalization will result in standard diplomatic missions. An unnamed Western official told Middle East Eye, “I do not think we will witness the opening of an Israeli embassy here, but probably we will have official visits from ministers of trade and economic affairs. I would not say this year, maybe the year after, they will tell the populace that it is important to confront Iran, and people with time will accept it.”
Bahrain no longer views Israel as a threat for its security. However, the nation has accused Iran of fostering terror cells aimed at destabilizing Bahrain. An official from Bahrain was quoted by Middle East Eye stating, “Israel does not threaten our security or conspire on us but Iran certainly does.”
Our assessment is that Gulf nations that find the rise of Iran a threat to their sovereignty will begin establishing formal relations with Israel. Even nations like Saudi Arabia stopped viewing Israel as an adversary. In 2015, Israel opened its first every diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates. However, friendlier ties between Gulf nations and Israel could result in Iran becoming more hawkish.