As Pompeo pushes for Israel deal, Bahrain reaffirms support for two-state solution

Pompeo is trying to persuade Bahrain and other countries in the region to join the United Arab Emirates in recognizing Israel.

al-monitor US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters following a meeting with members of the UN Security Council about Iran's alleged noncompliance with a nuclear deal and calling for the restoration of sanctions against Iran at United Nations headquarters in New York, Aug. 20, 2020. Photo by MIKE SEGAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 26, 2020

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushes for Arab countries to forge their own deals to recognize Israel, Bahrain indicated it would not be next, saying its position on the need for an independent Palestinian state remains unchanged.

Pompeo’s Middle East tour, which included a stop in the tiny island nation of Bahrain today, comes on the heels of a US-brokered deal to normalize relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The top US diplomat is lobbying for other countries to follow suit, and the small Gulf kingdom has been floated as a likely candidate.  

But during his meeting with Pompeo, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said his country still adheres to the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for recognition of Israel to be offered in exchange for the Jewish state’s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. 

“The King stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict according to the two-state solution ... that leads to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” state news agency BNA quoted him as saying. 

The United Arab Emirates is the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to establish formal ties with Israel. Under the deal, Israel agreed to hold off annexing large portions of the West Bank in return for cooperation with the UAE on trade, tourism, security and other areas of mutual interest. 

As a key ally, Bahrain hosts thousands of American troops at a US naval base in the capital. The kingdom of 1.4 million people maintains no diplomatic relations with Israel, but was the first Gulf state to welcome the UAE-Israel accord earlier this month. 

Bahrain has close ties to Saudi Arabia, and shares with Israel and the United States a common enemy in Iran. During his meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Pompeo discussed “countering Iran's malign influence in the region,” according to a State Department release.  

Israel’s intelligence minister has said Bahrain, as well as Oman, could be next to strike a similar pact. Senior Israeli officials told The Times of Israel they are in advanced talks with Manama over a potential agreement.  

Before Bahrain, Pompeo visited Israel and Sudan. He also met with Emirati leaders in Abu Dhabi today before making a final stop in Oman.

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