OPINION

Stopping West Bank ‘Annexation’? This Was the Goal Behind Bahrain’s Deal With Israel, Analyst Says

The normalisation agreement set to be signed between Israel and Bahrain on Tuesday has divided the Gulf country and exacerbated tensions in the region. But a Bahraini expert says that step was a ‘must’ and that it was taken for the sake of the Palestinian people.

On Tuesday, Israel will mark two historic occasions: it will ink an agreement with the United Arab Emirates, and sign a pact that will normalise its relationship with Bahrain, making it the 4th Arab nation to recognise Israel.

For some, that decision of Bahrain’s monarch Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa was good news. Speaking to Sputnik shortly after US President Donald Trump announced the normalisation of ties, Rabbi Marc Schneier, an advisor to the king, said that he was “excited” about the future pact, which will bring stability to the region.

Similar comments have also be seen from Israeli politicians, media personalities and ordinary Israelis, who took to Twitter to praise the agreement and express their hope that other Arab states will follow in the footsteps of the two Gulf countries.

Betraying Palestinians?

But many Bahrainis see the peace pact as a betrayal, and many tweeps vented anger on social networks, launching two hashtags that have already gone viral: #Bahrainis_Against_Normalisation and #Normalisation_Is_Betrayal.

Bahrain’s opposition groups and parties have also expressed their frustration with the move, releasing statements that condemned the normalisation agreement and that stipulated that the decision of the ruling elite did not represent them.

That uproar is hardly surprising. Bahrain is a country with a 70 percent Shiite majority, which harbours pro-Iranian sympathies, so it was inevitable that the decision to recognise the Jewish state would face criticism. In 2017, a Washington Institute poll found that only 15 percent of Bahrain’s population supported the normalisation of relations with Israel.

But Abdullah Al Junaid, a Bahraini researcher and political analyst, says he doubted the situation would spiral out of control or lead to potential clashes.

“Those who currently condemn the agreement, don’t necessarily see the entire picture. They can continue to oppose it. There is nothing wrong with it, it is part and parcel of the public’s natural dynamics. We value their opinion and it only shows the democratic values of our society.”

Al Junaid was one of those who have supported and advocated for the agreement, stressing that it made perfect sense for Bahrain’s interests in the region, one of which is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“First of all, the decision to normalise ties reversed the plan to grab parts of the West Bank,” he said in reference to the Israeli initiative to extend its sovereignty to parts of the region, considered Palestinian land under international law, which Israel calls ‘Judea and Samaria’.

“And, secondly, the approach of the Palestinian leadership that avoided the engagement of Israelis proved inefficient and it needed to be reevaluated. I wish the PA would give our decision a chance.”

So far, it seems that Ramallah has no intention to do so. Shortly after President Trump tweeted the announcement, the PA recalled its ambassador from Manama, Bahrain’s capital, with Palestinian officials speaking up against the agreement.

In Gaza, Palestinians have staged demonstrations against the shaping deals and just as it was the case with the UAE, the image of the Bahraini monarch has also been burnt as a protest to what they have deemed a stab in the back.

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