Manama made the surprise announcement that it would join the United Arab Emirates in normalising relations with Israel last Friday, as Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani met with US, UAE and Israeli officials in Washington for a formal treaty signing ceremony on Tuesday.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Manama and other cities across the tiny kingdom of Bahrain on Thursday for the sixth day in a row to express their disapproval of the government’s decision to normalise ties with Tel Aviv.
Images published by local media and activists shows protesters carrying signs reading “Down with USA and Israel,” and “No to normalization with the occupying regime,” as well as Bahraini and Palestinian flags, with some demonstrations reportedly featuring people walking over giant fake Israeli flags laid on the pavement.
At least two protesters are reported to have been arrested.
The People Of #Bahrain Reject The Regimes Normalisation And Continue To Protest Throughout The Country.
At least 2 protesters arrested. All risk their life to protest.
143 Bahraini scholars have signed a letter rejecting the move and supporting Palestine. #NoJusticNoPeace pic.twitter.com/LLXAAxOWxE
— Robert Inlakesh (@falasteen47) September 16, 2020
Also Thursday, 143 Bahraini religious scholars signed a joint statement voicing their opposition to normalisation with Israel, suggesting that “not making peace with the Zionist regime in any form and level is one of the matters of religious evidence and principles of the Islamic and Arab ummah [community].”
“The agreement to normalise Bahrain’s relations with Israel not only does not reflect the will of the Bahraini people, but also contradicts the Bahraini constitution and its first article,” the letter added, presumably referring to the constitution’s guarantee that Bahrain would remain a “fully sovereign, independent Islamic Arab State…whose territory is part of the great Arab homeland.”
Black smoke billows as demonstrators set tyres ablaze in the #Bahrain-i village of #Hamala amid ongoing protests against #Manama’s #normalization deal with #Israel. #Bahrainis_against_normalisation pic.twitter.com/KPp9yrbnGL
— LuaLuaTV (@LuaLuaEnglish) September 16, 2020
LuaLuaTV, a Bahraini opposition television channel headquartered in London, says security forces have beefed up their presence across the kingdom amid the protests, posting photos of large convoys of police vehicles traveling and deploying in strategic areas as protests continued into Friday.
#Bahraini security forces are deployed throughout the kingdom as protests against #Manama’s #normalisation deal with #Israel spill over into a second week. #Bahrainis_against_normalisation pic.twitter.com/Uzkg7gREp9
— LuaLuaTV (@LuaLuaEnglish) September 18, 2020
Demonstrations similar to those in Bahrain have been staged in Palestinian territories, Washington DC, London and other Western cities in recent days.
Protests held outside the Bahraini Embassy in London to denounce the normalisation of ties between #Bahrain and #UAE with #Israel pic.twitter.com/snskIZlJ5n
— قرّة العین رضوی (@QurratulainPK11) September 17, 2020
US President Donald Trump announced Manama’s intention to establish full diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv last Friday, just days before Emirati and Israeli officials announced their plans to join him in Washington for the signing of their normalisation deal. Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani took part in the formal signing of the peace deal, known as the Abraham Accords, on Tuesday.
Officials from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza described the agreement as a “betrayal” and another “treacherous stab” in the back of Palestinians after the UAE deal.
Bahrain, a kingdom of 1.5 million people, is about 200km northwest of the UAE in the Persian Gulf. The two Gulf States became the third and fourth Arab nations after Jordan and Egypt to establish ties with Israel since its creation in 1948.
Both Trump and Israeli officials have repeatedly hinted that more Persian Gulf sheikdoms may soon join Manama and Abu Dhabi in making peace with Tel Aviv, with the US president saying he believes Saudi Arabia may be among the “7 or 8 or 9” countries looking to do so. Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, who helped facilitate the first clandestine contacts between Israeli and Emirati officials before the signing of the Abraham Accords, confirmed in an interview Wednesday that normalisation between Riyadh and Tel Aviv “could happen,” but declined to say whether any secret talks were underway.
Eighteen of the Arab League’s 22 members, including Israel’s Syrian and Lebanese neighbours, continue to have no formal relations with Tel Aviv. The League endorsed the Saudi-led ‘Arab Peace Initiative’, which proposed in 2002 the creation of a Palestinian State based on the borders as they existed before the Six Day War of June 1967.