Senior FM official at security conference in Bahrain

Rare visit by official highlights Gulf willingness to cooperate with Israel against Iran

BAHRAIN IS preparing to host an event devoted to the US peace plan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
BAHRAIN IS preparing to host an event devoted to the US peace plan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, the head of the Foreign Ministry’s counter-terrorism department, took part in a two-day maritime and aviation security conference in Bahrain on Monday in another sign that Israel and the Gulf States are willing to work together – even publicly – to deal with Iran’s threats to the region.
Representatives from some 60 countries took part in Monday’s conference, a follow-up to a US-led conference in Warsaw in February that brought a similar number of countries together to discuss the Middle East, with a focus on Iran.
Monday’s meeting comes after recent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and on Saudi oil installations that were widely attributed to Iran and its proxies. Benvenisiti-Gabay’s attendance at the conference comes some six months after a group of Israeli government officials canceled participation in an economic conference in Manama because of “security concerns.”
In June, a group of Israeli businessmen and journalists – but no government officials – took part in the US backed “Peace to Prosperity” workshop that unveiled the economic chapter of the US administration’s long-awaited peace framework for the Middle East.
The United States is trying to build a global maritime coalition to secure vital trade channels in the Gulf following the Iranian-backed attacks.
“Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said at the opening of the conference.
“We all must take a collective stand... to take the necessary steps to protect our nation from rogue states, non-state actors and terrorist groups that conduct such attacks and seek to destabilize our globe,” he said, in an apparent reference to Iran and its proxies.
“We must also continue our efforts to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated technologies and delivery systems.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a letter to the meeting’s participants, said, “this meeting comes at a critical moment in history.”
Pompeo wrote that “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, whether by air or sea, pose a serious threat to international peace and security. Together, we must all be committed to taking the necessary actions to stop countries that continue to pursue WMD at great risk to all of us.”
Hamas, meanwhile, slammed Israel’s participation in the event, with its spokesman, Hazim Qasim, saying in a statement that efforts to “integrate the Israeli occupation into the region are doomed to fail.”
He blamed those normalizing relations with Israel “for Israeli assaults on the Palestinian people and their holy sites.”

Reuters contributed to this report.