Like-minded Middle Eastern countries need to work together to defend their national security interests from Iran, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the US Shaikh Abdullah bin Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York on Monday.
“The time for building our defense in the region was yesterday,” the ambassador said during a panel discussion about the Abraham Accords. “Like Israel, Bahrain was forced to strengthen its defense architecture. Our commitments toward our national security interests compelled us to do so.”
Bahrain’s “defense calculus,” Khalifa said, involved considering potential direct and indirect threats from Iran. He called for a “security architecture... that obviously includes the US and Israel.”
At the same time, the ambassador said it was important to “ensure some kind of dialogue with Iran, because without it, this is a very difficult task.”
Israel's UN envoy: A nuclear Iran is an existential threat
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan expressed Israel’s strong opposition to the Iran deal.
“For Israel, a nuclear Iran is an existential threat,” he said. “Even the most moderate leaders of Iran, like [Akbar] Rafsanjani called Israel a ‘one-bomb state.’ The deal doesn’t stop the one thing it’s supposed to stop – Iran’s nuclear capability.”
Erdan pointed out that the deal’s “sunset clauses” lift restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program over the next two-to-seven years.
In addition, he said, the agreement does not stop Iran’s regional aggression or limit its advanced missile program.
“The only formula to stop Iran is to... isolate Iran diplomatically, trigger the snapback mechanism of crippling sanctions on Iran and present Iran with a credible military threat,” Erdan said. “This might be the last moment to present [Iran] with a real military threat and force them to decide between survival and their nuclear ambitions.”
As for the Abraham Accords, Erdan said the normalization between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco was a “historic transformation.”
Erdan said that at the UN, for the first time, the Arab League decided not to automatically oppose an Israeli resolution, supporting his initiative against Holocaust denial and distortion.
The ambassador said the accords brought along a “psychological shift by which millions of Jews are getting to know millions of Arabs.”
“I’m sure many more Muslim countries will follow suit,” he added, saying it could even have a positive impact on the future generation of Palestinian leaders.
Moroccan ambassador: Economic opportunities with Israel are 'huge'
Moroccan Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale said that renewed diplomatic relations between his country and Israel come on a “continuum of 3,000 years of history of the existence of Jewish people in Morocco.”
“The opportunities are huge,” he said, citing a threefold increase in exports from Morocco to Israel.
Hilale pointed to joint projects between Israeli and Moroccan universities, saying, “The best investment is in education.
“Peace is possible,” Hilale said. “Not only coexistence but acceptance.”
Khalifa said that Bahrain’s normalization with Israel is the continuation of his country’s king’s longtime “embrace of peaceful coexistence and tolerance.”
The ambassador expressed excitement that Jewish life-cycle events, including bar mitzvahs and weddings, have returned to Manama. “We hope it becomes more normal,” he said.
He added that Jewish community members left Bahrain of their own free choice and not because of discriminatory laws.