On 20 January 2021, the Faculty of Business, Law, and Politics / University of Hull organized an online seminar with the theme “The Normalisation Accord between Bahrain and Israel”. The key-note speaker was Mr. Speaker: Fahad ALBINALI, Counsellor of the Embassy of Bahrain, London), and his main opinions are presented below.
Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords on the 15th of September 2020. This has happened for various reasons and this is pointing to Bahrain’s foreign policy and principles.
Bahrain is a state that seeks to solve problems through dialogue and cooperation, rather than through confrontation, that values mutual respect and that upholds international law, acting as a good neighbor, while not interfering in the internal affairs of the other states. These features have made Bahrain a strong and reliable ally for states like France and the United Kingdom. From the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 to ongoing partnerships on issues such as counter-extremism and freedom of navigation, Bahrain has been a solid ally, sharing the same outlook and the same values and recognizing the critical importance of cooperation. But Bahrain’s cooperative and open approach is not based on self-interest, rather it is a national, organic interest.
Over the centuries, Bahrain has been a center for regional commerce, bringing together traders from across the Middle East and beyond. As a result, the country and its people have a deep-rooted and well-established culture of openness to others that go beyond tolerance and embrace respect for the faiths, values, and ideas of others. Bahrain has always had a diverse society, with communities of different beliefs and cultures, for instance, their Jewish community. Manama, Bahrain’s capital, is the most religiously diverse one in the Middle East, comprising Sunni, Shia, Jewish, Christians, and Hindu people. This demonstrates how deep-rooted are the values that shape their foreign policy. Openness, dialogue, and cooperation are not foreign to Bahraini people, but they are core values of the national character accumulated over centuries of experience. In recent years, Bahrain started to built further on these foundations and has reached out to foster dialogue in the area. For instance, in 2020 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the US State Department’s Office to combat antisemitism. Also, the 2017 Bahrain Declaration boosts religious tolerance. There is no doubt that such actions will continue and that the values would persist and shape the foreign policy of Bahrain.
This is the context for the signing of the Abraham Accords and proves that this historic was fully consistent with Bahrain’s foreign policy and diplomacy. There is no doubt that the Abraham Accords represent a very important moment for the Middle East and one which can fundamentally change the dynamics in the region. We have already seen Morocco and Sudan join Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and no one would be surprised if more states would choose to follow.
The implications of the Abraham Accords for the Middle East are vast. For Bahrain, just the signing of the Accords has brought a change in the regional dynamics. It demonstrated that the approach of conflict and confrontation has been a failure, as it creates mistrust and mis opportunities. Suddenly, a new way of seeing the relations and a new perspective for the cooperation in the region appeared. It is going to be difficult for countries to remain outside because they will look at their neighbors move on without them. The security, economic and social realities put pressure on the leadership to adhere to the cooperation system. This is why Bahrain is confident that this process will advance, especially because it is clearly in the support of the international community, regardless of nationality or political affiliation. Moreover, there has been strong support from around the world for the Abraham Accords.
The Accords are only pieces of paper, their implementation will be very important. That is why Bahrain and the UAE have repeatedly declared that what they want for the Abraham Accords is to become the foundation of a long peace with Israel. Furthermore, they have already moved on with cooperation in different fields. A few weeks after signing the Accords, Bahrain hosted a visit from Israel’s National Security Advisor and subsequently the foreign minister of Bahrain met with the President, prime minister, and foreign minister of Israel. Agreements of flights have been reached between the two countries, with flights existing between them today and, also, embassies of the two countries will be soon opened in each state. Other fields of cooperation include foreign policy, finance, economy, IT, postal services, health, education, innovation, technology transfer, banking, renewable energy, and green technology. All these happened in only four months and in the middle of a global pandemic. This proves that cooperation will continue, as the two sides have expressed their will to do so. For Bahrain this is the best way to move further, because for more reasons: firstly, it demonstrates the benefits of a cooperative approach in the region, and secondly, the broader and the deeper the cooperation is, the more likely it is to be sustainable.
It is very important to have interdependence in the region and this will become a reality as more states would join this process. At the same time, thinking realistically, it is clear that not everyone will share this goal, and some state or non-state actors will seize each opportunity to attack and undermine the Abraham Accords. Here it is mainly about Iran and its proxies, who seem determined in undermining regional stability and interfere in the states’ internal affairs. This is why it is very important for the international community to recognize and condemn such behavior.
Bahrain’s vision and expectation on the Abraham Accords are that it can be more than bilateral and give them the chance to finally bring peace and cooperation to the region and to enable the people to enjoy the opportunity and prosperity that decades of conflict have denied. There are ambitious goals but Bahrain will continue to strive for peace.
Addressing the central role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mandatory. Bahrain fully supports the Palestinian cause and the signing of the Abraham Accords is consistent with this position and increases the likelihood of finding a just solution. Bahrain is certain that at the heart of a peaceful and prosperous region, a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must lie. This was and will always be Bahrain’s vision, but it has become clear that a new approach is needed. As more states engage in the process, peace would prevail and, in turn, as this happens, more states will join up. Moreover, this momentum will make it politically and diplomatically difficult for any actor to act in a way that will endanger the peace.
Bahrain is confident that the process will continue, that more countries and people would follow the same path and that September 2020 will remain a historic moment for the Middle East.
When asked which are the challenges for the Abraham Accords, Mr. Fahad ALBINALI stated that one challenge is to have true engagement, with a solid foundation and not a cold peace.
Regarding Bahrain’s position regarding Iran’s nuclear energy developments, Mr. ALBINALI said that there are concerns about Iran’s nuclear programs and weapons because the region is already an unstable one and the last thing needed is a nuclear race. Nuclear energy should only be used for peaceful reasons and in safe conditions.
About the author:
Delia-Maria MOTAN is Intern research at MEPEI, and her research interest lies in international relations and political science in the Middle East. Currently, she is studying at the Faculty of the Political Science / University of Bucharest.