Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar visited Bahrain on Monday, making him the first rabbi of his stature to visit the predominately Muslim country, according to Ynet.
“More progress!” tweeted former US special envoy Jason Greenblatt on Tuesday in response to the visit. “Thank you #Bahrain for working toward peace. Thank you to Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for going. Step by step.”
More progress!! Thank you #Bahrain for working toward peace. Thank you to Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for going. Step by step... https://t.co/F6y55zUVsf— Jason D. Greenblatt (@GreenblattJD) December 10, 2019
Rabbis such as Amar are seen as representatives of the State of Israel. The chief rabbi was in the region to take part in a religious conference featuring religious leaders from all over the Middle East – including Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Italy, India, the United States, India and more.
According to Ynet, Amar hopes that both citizens of Bahrain and Israel could travel to each other’s countries without “the need for special coordination.”
“Middle East nations want peace with Israel, the leadership should promote that without fear,” Amar said. “The people of the Middle East want peace with Israel, and good relations,” he continued.
During the trip, Amar met with the Bahraini king and sent him “a blessing from Jerusalem that will lead to a solid relationship with the State of Israel.”
Preceding the visit from the chief rabbi, the Bahraini and Israeli governments have worked towards normalizing relations with each other in recent months, however, they still do not communicate with one another diplomatically. Israel at the moment only holds diplomatic ties with two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan.
Kan News reported that the visit was allegedly organized by American officials acting as intermediaries, considering Israel and Bahrain countries do not coordinate directly with one another. In addition to the peace conference on Iran that was held in the country back in July, another sign of thawing ties between Israel and the Persian Gulf countries occurred when Bahrain’s foreign minister expressed understanding and support for Israel’s actions against Hezbollah back in September.
“The aggression of one state on another is something prohibited by international law,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said in a tweet highly critical of Lebanon. “A state standing by watching battles taking place on its borders and endangering its people is a state being complacent in [carrying out] its responsibilities.”
This was not the first time the Bahraini foreign minister has backed Israel’s right to defend itself. In May 2018, following an Iranian rocket attack on the Golan Heights that prompted an Israeli retaliatory response, he tweeted: “It is the right of any country in the region, including Israel, to defend itself by destroying sources of danger.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this story.