Israel's Netanyahu says he will visit Bahrain soon

·2-min read
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces a peace agreement to establish diplomatic ties, between Israel and the United Arab Emirates

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he would visit Bahrain "soon" at the invitation of the Gulf state's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa.

Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates in normalising ties with Israel in a deal brokered by the United States that marked a strategic Middle East alignment against Iran. The shift has enraged the Palestinians who have demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.

"We are both excited to bring the fruits of peace to our people and countries in such a short time. That's why he (al-Khalifa) invited me to come soon for a formal visit in Bahrain and I will do this happily," Netanyahu said in a statement about a phone call he held with the crown prince.

A first Bahraini delegation visited Israel last Wednesday.

On Monday, an Israeli official and local media said Netanyahu had secretly traveled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in what would be the first publicly confirmed visit there by an Israeli leader.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud denied such talks took place. Netanyahu did not confirm or deny the reports.

Since September, the Trump administration has brokered agreements with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan toward normalising their relations with Israel. An Israeli delegation traveled to Sudan on Monday.

Although White House officials have said more countries are considering normalising ties with Israel, further developments appear unlikely before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20 and establishes his administration's policy on Iran.

Biden has said he would rejoin the nuclear accord that world powers signed with Iran if it first resumed strict compliance with the deal, and would work with allies to strengthen its terms.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Dan Williams and Philippa Fletcher)