Tuesday (February 15th): Bennett’s Historic Visit to Bahrain

Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett

Name? Naftali Bennett

Westphalian identity? Israeli

Age? 49

Why is he in the news? Israeli PM Naftali Bennett landed in Bahrain yesterday, a first for an Israeli prime minister. He has kept busy meeting the Bahraini PM, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, his father King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, several Bahraini ministers, and he even had time to meet Bahrain’s Jewish community – all 50 of them

Why do we care? Bennett’s position in Bahrain is strategic for their joint efforts to counter Iran. Bahrain has a majority Shia population that favours Iran, which worries the Sunni leadership for fears of uprising backed by Tehran. Additionally, Iran and Israel have confronted each other in the Red Sea and Mediterranean; as ties formalise with Gulf countries, Bennett is increasing Israel’s position in the Red Sea. For King Hamad and his son, Israel is a welcome ally to contain Iran in the Gulf.

Why should you care? Changing security dynamics in the Gulf are a big win for Israel, which has been historically marginalised by Arab countries in the Middle East. Simultaneously, critical voices see lost allies for Palestine and its own security concerns. In the 2003 Arab Peace Initiative Arab states agreed to not have relations with Israel unless the Palestine question was resolved. You should care 7/10 about Sunni-Israeli rapprochement. 

Who else cares? Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi MBZ also has great interest in the security technology Israel can offer against Iran in the Gulf. Last year, the Emirati, Israeli, Bahraini and American naval fleets held drills in the Red Sea to ‘push back’ Iran’s access in the Gulf, mainly to limit its network of militias attacking Gulf countries and to securitise trade along the Red Sea.

Any further comments? The fact that Benett can have talks in Bahrain is only possible with Saudi Arabia’s approval. More signs of Saudi warming up to Israel are the joined military exercises (under US leadership) next month.

Francia Morales

Editor in Chief for Research and Analysis