A top Bahraini official and member of the ruling family was dismissed from her position by the Bahraini king after she refused to shake hands with the Israeli ambassador to the Gulf state, Arab media outlet Rai al-Youm reported on Friday.
Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain's Authority for Culture and Antiquities chief, reportedly refused to shake the hand of Eitan Na'eh, Israel's ambassador in Manama, during a funeral service for the father of US Ambassador Steven C. Bondy held last month.
Furthermore, Sheikha Mai left the funeral service when she was informed of Na'eh's presence and asked the US embassy to not publish any pictures of her attending the American ambassador's late father's funeral, according to the report.
The Bahraini royal family member, who has carried out official duties for more than 20 years, is a "controversial figure" in Bahrain, the report noted. She has previously served as the Bahraini information minister, the first woman to hold the office.
She also served as Bahrain's culture minister and was named the sixth most powerful Arab woman of 2014 in a list compiled by Forbes Middle East.
The report also noted that a decree naming her replacement as head of the Authority for Culture and Antiquities was issued by the Bahraini king on July 21. That same day, Prime Minister Yair Lapid held a phone call with Bahraini crown prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
Today, I spoke with my friend His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain. Israel and Bahrain share a vision for a more stable and prosperous Middle East, and we’re working together to make that vision a reality.— יאיר לפיד - Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) July 21, 2022
Israel and Bahrain are working together to realize a shared vision for a "stable and prosperous Middle East," Lapid wrote in a tweet following the call.
Bahrain respond, Hamas salute Shaikha Mai
"The government wishes to emphasize that the former president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, served in government for over 20 years with distinction," the Bahraini government's spokesperson said in a statement issued in response to the report.
"Wide-ranging changes announced this week within a number of government bodies follow on from the largest cabinet reshuffle in the Kingdom’s history," the statement continued. "Updates to leadership positions within public sector bodies should not be misinterpreted."
Sheikha Mai's refusal to shake hands with Na'eh is a "true reflection of the Bahraini people's genuine stance in support of Palestinians," Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said in a statement in support of the Bahraini official released on Saturday.
The Palestinian terror group said all attempts to normalize ties with Israel will "remain unacceptable in the collective Arab consciousness."
Bahrain and Israel officially normalized relations in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel establish diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.
Bahrain's foreign minister also took part in the Negev Summit organized by Lapid earlier this year. The Gulf state would also be considered part of a potential regional security alliance, lobbied by US President Joe Biden during his recent trip to the Middle East, which included visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia.