Israel welcomes Bahraini trade delegation: ‘Meeting as equals'

Some 40 business and tourism leaders from the Gulf State will hold work meetings with Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis.

Regional Affairs Minister Ofir Akunis alongside Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani, Ben-Gurion Airport, December 1, 2020
Economy Minister Amir Peretz and Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen greeted visiting Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani on his arrival in Israel on Tuesday with about 40 other business and state officials from the Gulf state.
“The important thing is that we are greeting them as [our] equals,” Peretz said. “They can contribute a great deal to us.”
The minister added that the landing of Al Zayani puts all concepts of one-sided annexation of the West Bank “out of the Israeli lexicon.”  
“Every Israeli understands that peace is much better,” he added.   
The guests, including top officials from the Tourism Board, Economic Development Board and Securities Authority, will spend three days exploring what the Start-Up Nation has to offer in its business, tourism and innovation sectors.  
After an official lunch, a series of work sessions will be held to discuss the various needs and opportunities both sides see after the historic signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House on September 15. Following that, a meeting with Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis is set to take place. It is expected that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet the distinguished visiting minister as will Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.   
"That is real normalization," head of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East section Eliav Benjamin said: "trade, meetings between ministers and businesspeople, flights and tourism."
“In our times, economic power relations outweigh diplomacy," Israel Export Institute chairman Adiv Baruch said.   
"Israeli exports in 2019 exceeded $114 billion (NIS 377 billion) and get to countries with which we don’t have formal relations,” he argued. This visit is “a unique chance to change the economic regional structure.”  
Farkash-Hacohen told The Jerusalem Post that the visiting minister is going to “meet all the people in the Israeli tourism sector” and spoke about upcoming “joint tourism packages” and her wish to bring Gulf Air Bahrain into Israel.    
Gulf Air CEO Waleed Al Alawi is a member of the delegation as is AVTTA [Association of Bahrain Travel and Tour Agents] Chairman Jehad Amin.
Israel and Bahrain are meant to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of tourism on Wednesday. "Tens of thousands of tourists" will arrive from the UAE and Bahrain to Israel, she said.      
Last month, Al Zayani told Farkash-Hacohen that “I’ve been a minister for six years. I never got so many calls from businessmen or friends asking me to take them with me when I go to Jerusalem.” The delegation is expected to visit the holy city as well.
Farkash-Hacohen responded by saying that Israelis “can’t wait for the sky to open” and to be able to visit his country.  
Both ministers were invited to take part in a panel titled “Tourism: The Path to Peace in the Middle East” as part of the UK’s World Travel Market (WTM) international event.  
Not as oil-rich as other countries in the region, Bahrain has spent the past 20 years planning ahead for the post-petroleum economy and is now a financial center power house in the region, Baruch said.