Kuwaiti journalist running for parliament says ties with Israel will improve emirate's standing in West.
By JONATHAN BECK
A journalist running for Kuwait's parliament in next month's general election called on the Gulf state Tuesday to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel.
"Israel is a reality and has international influence... Kuwait would benefit from Israel's influence if we establish relations," said Saleh Bahman, who is running as an independent.
He also said relations between Kuwait and Israel would improve the oil-rich country's standing in the West.
In an interview published on Al-Arabiya TV's Web site, Bahman said he was not afraid after having called for normalization with Israel.
"The residents of Kuwait live in security, and there is no threat to my life," he said. "What I said comes from deep conviction, and I have complete freedom to express my views."
Bahman said many important people in Gulf states had met with their Israeli counterparts, and normalization was a possibility.
He also said his proposal was viewed positively by intellectuals and academics in Kuwait. He expressed hope that the country would take "swift" steps to establish relations with Israel, including bilateral opening of embassies.
Kuwait, a staunch US ally, has so far resisted pressure to end its boycott of the Jewish state and has repeatedly said it would be the last Arab country to establish ties after any peace deal with the Palestinians.
Earlier this year, a number of Kuwaiti lawmakers submitted a bill calling for a total ban on dealing with Israel and proposing hefty penalties for violators. The bill has not been yet been debated.
The Kuwaiti parliamentary election is scheduled for May 16.
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