Israel, Bahrain to sign document launching formal ties
Mnuchin to fly in with US delegation for today’s ceremony
By CELIA JEAN, CODY LEVINE, TOVAH LAZAROFF
Israeli and Bahraini officials plan to sign a normalization declaration in Manama Sunday that will launch diplomatic relations and peace between the two countries.“From tomorrow there will be full diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain after the joint declaration,” an Israeli official told reporters on Saturday night.The signing ceremony builds on the statement of intent between the two countries signed in Washington on September 15, which still lacks the status of a full-fledged agreement.The Israeli official referred to the document as a “joint communique,” but explained that in practice, full diplomatic relations will be in place by the end of the day Sunday. After, the signing work can begin on the establishment of embassies in both countries.The scheduled Israeli-Bahraini ceremony follows the Knesset vote Thursday to authorize Israel’s peace deal with the United Arab Emirates.Both deals were brokered by the United States as part of its Abraham Accords.US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, along with assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will participate in the ceremonies.Mnuchin and his delegation will land first in Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport. According to the US Treasury, the Americans will travel together with an Israeli delegation on the “first-ever direct commercial flight from Israel to Bahrain.”There will be both a ceremony at the airport in Bahrain when the plane lands followed by a signing ceremony in the evening.The Israeli delegation will be led by National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.During the day, Israeli and Bahraini official will hold talks on areas on potential cooperation including investment, civil aviation, tourism, trade, science and technology, environment, communications, health, agriculture, water, energy and legal cooperation.From Manama, the US delegation will fly to Abu Dhabi, where “the first-ever Abraham Accords Business Summit” will be held. The group will then fly back to Tel Aviv, the Treasury said.Separately, the first official delegation to Israel from the UAE is expected to land in Israel Tuesday, but may remain at the airport and fly home the same day, rather than conduct a wider visit, due to coronavirus precautions, an Israeli minister said.Israel is under a second coronavirus lockdown, which it plans to begin easing in the next few days, after a surge in cases.Science and Technology Minister Izhar Shay, whose ministry is taking part in talks with the UAE delegates, said the visitors would stay for several hours under a coronavirus protocol.“Right now it looks kind of ‘touch and go.’ It’s possible that the meetings will be at the airport or close to it,” he told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM.Officials have said the UAE delegation will involve eight or nine groups working on various areas of bilateral cooperation, as a follow-up to talks launched in Abu Dhabi during an August 31 visit by an Israeli delegation.Two other officials involved in the planning, one Israeli and the other American, said it was possible the UAE delegation visit would take place entirely at Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv. The UAE has yet to confirm the delegation visit.Reuters contributed to this report.