In the first visit of an Israeli leader to Bahrain, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met at the royal palace on February 15 with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and also conducted talks with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the deputy supreme commander and prime minister. “We are trying to form a new regional architecture of moderate countries (to) provide stability, economic prosperity and to be able to stand strong against enemies who are fomenting chaos and terror,” Bennett told reporters. This was Bennett’s second visit to the Gulf – after the United Arab Emirates in December – since the 2020 Abraham Accords normalized relations between Israel and four Arab countries: Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan.
A high-level Turkish delegation arrived in Israel in mid-February to prepare for a visit by President Isaac Herzog to Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalin and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal led the delegation, which met both Israeli and Palestinian officials. The move was seen as part of a charm offensive by economically-strapped Turkey to repair strained ties with Israel and other regional powers, including Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In 2018, Turkey – angered by the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem – recalled its envoy, prompting Israel to do the same.
Israel urged all its citizens on February 12 to leave Ukraine immediately. Quoting senior government officials, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israel had a secret plan to rescue Jews and their relatives in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the report, there are approximately 200,000 residents of Ukraine eligible to move to Israel under the Law of Return. Israel was also said to be working to move its embassy from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, to Lviv, which is close to the border with Poland.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Religious Zionist Party leader MK Bezalel Smotrich was not welcome in the country after his arrival on February 8. “Get back on the plane, Bezalel, and be remembered as a disgrace forever,” the umbrella group of British Jewry tweeted. Smotrich, who was on a tour of Jewish communities in the UK and France to rally opposition to the government’s plan to reform conversion to Judaism, responded to the condemnation of his trip by British Jewish leaders by comparing them to German Jews ahead of the Holocaust. “Those who say the way to deal with antisemitism is to hide who and what we are repeat the awful strategy of German Jewry ahead of World War II,” Smotrich told The Jerusalem Post.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court ordered Bongani Masuku on February 16 to tender an “unconditional apology” to the Jewish community for offensive remarks he made in 2009 in his capacity as head of international relations for the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). The SA Jewish Board of Deputies welcomed the judgment, saying it sent out “a clear message that the right to freedom of expression does not include a license to indulge in hate speech and incitement.” Masuku said on February 10, 2009: “As we struggle to liberate Palestine from the racists, fascists and Zionists who belong to the era of their friend Hitler, we must not apologize; every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brothers and sisters in Palestine.”
Israel’s cabinet approved on February 7 the appointment of Gali Baharav-Miara as the country’s first female attorney-general, replacing Avichai Mandelblit after the completion of his six-year term. Baharav-Miara pledged to make restoring public trust in the law enforcement system her top priority, saying, “It’s essential to look inward and examine ourselves without fear of criticism and make the changes necessary to improve our work.” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he would consult with the new attorney-general over the so-called Pegasus Affair after the government decided to investigate media reports that the Israeli police had illegally used NSO spyware called Pegasus against its citizens without a court order. “The reports about Pegasus, if they are true, are very serious,” said Bennett.