Top Bahraini Official Visits Israel To Counter Iran

Diplomat signs agreement to strengthen Abraham Accords between Israel and Bahrain

The Sept. 2020 signing of the Abraham Accords (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
August 9, 2021

A top Bahraini official is visiting Israel to deepen the two countries' cooperation against Iranian aggression, expanding a partnership struck through the 2020 Abraham Accords.

Bahraini undersecretary for international relations Abdulla bin Ahmed al Khalifa on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding with Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dore Gold, a top adviser to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu. The agreement aims to show a unified front against Iran's recent aggression toward Israel and others, which Gold said would help Gulf countries defeat Iran in a "war of ideas."

"Our cooperation can become a central factor in winning that war," Gold said. "Our goal is to convey a message to the United States, Europe, and other countries of a realistic understanding of the challenges that we share—the danger of Iran's policies in the region and in the world."

The memorandum is only the beginning of Khalifa's effort to cultivate closer engagement with Israel. The Bahraini official will embark on a four-day trip across the country during which he plans to meet with President Isaac Herzog and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid. Khalifa also plans to set up a meeting between his superior, Bahraini foreign minister Abdullatif al Zayani, and Lapid.

Khalifa's visit to Israel comes nearly a year after the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Gulf countries. The agreement between Bahrain and Israel was brokered by Trump administration officials, particularly senior adviser Jared Kushner.

Khalifa plans to make a major announcement regarding Israel and Bahrain's relationship on September 15, the first anniversary of the accords' signing. He has asked the Biden administration to show support for the accords, which it has played down in diplomatic communications.

"Hopefully on the 15th of September, there will be some sort of demonstration that there is commitment" from the administration, Khalifa said at the Sunday signing.

The visit sends a message to an emboldened Iran. The Islamic Republic launched a July maritime campaign against Israel and other Gulf countries that peaked when an Iranian drone attacked an Israeli-operated commercial tanker, killing two people. Iran has denied responsibility for the attack, but U.S. military officials say the attack matches similar operations carried out by Tehran.