Has Bahrain cut off ties with Israel over the war on Gaza?

Has Bahrain cut off ties with Israel over the war on Gaza?
Any confirmed suspension of ties with Bahrain would be a huge hit for Israeli ambitions to establish relations with the Arab world without an independent state first being created for the Palestinians.
4 min read
03 November, 2023
Israel is waging a devastating war in Gaza, which has killed more than 9,200 people [Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Getty]

There have been days of conflicting reports about whether Bahrain - which normalised relations with Israel in 2020 - has cut ties with Tel Aviv over the war in Gaza.

It follows an announcement from Bahrain's lower house that the kingdom's ambassador to Israel had returned to Manama in addition to a "cessation of economic relations" with Israel.

The statement, which came amid the brutal war in Gaza, said the Israeli ambassador had also left Bahrain.

An unnamed senior official, cited by an Israeli news outlet, later denied the report that envoys had been recalled, saying they had both previously left for unrelated reasons and diplomatic relations had not been terminated.

A Bahraini government later confirmed the parliament's statement but said economic ties had not been suspended. Flights between the two countries had been cut for several weeks, it added.

The Bahraini government also said its ambassador had returned to the kingdom while the Israeli envoy left Manama "a while ago".

It comes after Jordan on Wednesday announced it had recalled its ambassador from Israel and told the Israeli ambassador to stay away amid protests in the kingdom over the devastating bombardment of Gaza. which has cost over 9,300 lives.

There has been increasing pressure on the UAE and Bahrain to cut ties with Israel over the horrific bombardment of Gaza.

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The statement did not clarify whether that meant the Israeli ambassador had been expelled.

Earlier Israel said it received no word of any such actions, saying its relations with Bahrain were "stable".

The Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement: "We would like to clarify that no notification or decision has been received from the government of Bahrain and the government of Israel to return the countries' ambassadors. Relations between Israel and Bahrain are stable."

This was in response to a statement from Bahrain's lower house, which carries no real power, that "confirmed Bahrain's historic position in support of the Palestinian cause".

"The Council of Representatives affirms that the Israeli ambassador in the Kingdom of Bahrain has left Bahrain and the Kingdom of Bahrain has decided on the return of the Bahraini ambassador from Israel," it said.

It came amid Israel's indiscriminate war in Gaza, which has so far killed more than 9,200 people in the besieged enclave.

Ambassador's return 'for personal reasons'

The Times of Israel had cited an unnamed senior official as saying Bahrain's Ambassador Khaled al-Jalahma had already returned to the kingdom for personal reasons.

An Israeli official reportedly said that for security purposes Tel Aviv brought its ambassador home towards the start of the war.

"There has been no recall of ambassadors and no cutting of ties," the senior official was quoted as saying by the Israeli news website.

Reaffirmed 'pro-Palestine' stance

After the NCC's statement, the Council of Representatives followed up by expressing its thanks for and endorsement of Bahrain's "firm and historical" pro-Palestinian stance.

"This was reaffirmed in the statement released by the esteemed government led by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister, may God protect him," the lower house of parliament said.

The Council of Representatives said this had confirmed its own earlier statement, without commenting on the fact the NCC had not verified the alleged breaking of economic relations with Israel.

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While Bahrain has normalised ties with Israel, Palestinians and citizens of states across the Arab world reject normalisation as a betrayal.

It puts Manama and other countries in the region that have established ties with Israel in a difficult position amid the Gaza war as they seek to balance this with public opinion.

Israeli ties with some Latin American countries have also been tested, with Bolivia announcing it was breaking off relations on Tuesday.

Israel has occupied Palestinian territory, including Gaza, since 1967 and has carried out several previous assaults on the enclave.

The current war began on 7 October, after Hamas and other Palestinian militants carried out a surprise attack inside Israeli territory, killing 1,400 people.

Reuters contributed to this story.