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First official Bahrain trip to Israel…nearly 5, July 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain.
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A group of Bahraini officials have made the first ever official visit to Israel, nearly. They landed at Tel Aviv International Airport and were met on the tarmac by Israeli officials who handed over several Bahraini citizens who had been intercepted by Israeli forces trying to break the blockade of supplies to Gaza. Although the officials did not officially enter Israel by going through customs, this story nevertheless made headlines around the region.

Currently, only Jordan and Egypt of the Arab countries have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Qatar has an Israeli trade office that opens and closes from time to time but the rest of the Arab world operates under the premise that Israel does not officially exist. Part of the current road-map for peace in the Middle East includes full recognition by Arab states of Israel in return for the establishment of a viable Palestinian State.

It seems unlikely that this interlude is Bahrain testing the waters of normalising relations with Israel. Bahrain is a country with a large majority of Shia and a Sunni governing elite. Many of the Shia have close links to Iran and are severely critical of Israel. This currently disenfranchised majority is currently at boiling point with countless disturbances and riots in recent weeks and it would therefore be something of a provocative act by the governing elite in Bahrain to normalise relations: they have enough to deal with already.

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