Isaac Herzog
Israel's 11th president

Bahrain’s warm peace with Israel: What’s next?

Direct flights were just the beginning - we anticipate a free trade agreement and ample exchange, as Israelis and Bahrainis discover new opportunities with each other
President Isaac Herzog (front L) and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (front R) at the Al Qudaibiya palace in Manama, December 4, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
President Isaac Herzog (front L) and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (front R) at the Al Qudaibiya palace in Manama, December 4, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

This morning, as I fly to Bahrain for a historic state visit, the first-ever visit by an Israeli head of state to Bahrain, I will be reflecting on how dramatically the Middle East has been transformed by Bahrain’s bold decision to embrace a warm peace with Israel.

When the Abraham Accords were signed in September 2020, I thought of a 10-year-old child, somewhere in the Middle East, seeing a Jewish leader warmly embrace an Arab leader, and realizing that a different future is possible: that time has turned a new leaf, and that the 21st century holds almost unimaginable promise. That child is now 12, and as His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa graciously welcomes me today to Bahrain, I will be thinking of that child, confident that his or her future will be brighter, safer, and more prosperous thanks to the partnership we deepen today.

Today at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace, I will be conscious that His Majesty King Hamad is not only graciously welcoming me, personally: Bahrain has chosen to roll out the red carpet to a future of partnership, peace, and prosperity with my country.

Bahrain has a special place in our hearts, as an original signatory of the Abraham Accords. Its courageous decision two years ago, together with our friends in the UAE, to embrace a warm peace with Israel has already transformed our region. It has transformed our nations’ relationship. And it must now transform the lives of all Israelis and Bahrainis alike.

During my state visit today, together with His Majesty the King and other leaders, we will be working on this task: making sure the benefits of regional friendly relations reach each and every Israeli and Bahraini. 

Direct flights between Israel and Bahrain were only the beginning. The free trade agreement that we hope to conclude in the foreseeable future will unleash an outburst of trade, as Israelis discover Manama as their gateway to the Gulf, and as Bahrainis discover more opportunities for business with Israel’s dynamic, innovative economy.

Israel envisions a future of student exchanges, of joint projects between youth, of collaborative ventures between universities — not only between Israel and Bahrain, but with our broader region. We want to bring our culture, a magnificent fusion of ancient and modern, East and West, to the Gulf, and we hope to see your artists received with applause in our cultural spaces, too. 

I believe that the single greatest opportunity facing the Middle East is a warm peace with Israel — unlocking the latent potential of partnerships with our dynamic, vibrant economy. We cherish Bahrain as a trailblazer and pioneer in this regard, setting an example for the nations of our region.

Our region faces many challenges, and since these are by their nature international, the answer lies in collaboration between nations. The climate crisis, for example, recognizes no borders. That is why a warm peace with Israel offers the best hope for the future of the Middle East: it opens the single biggest door to international cooperation in our region. 

Indeed, the climate crisis is one of the areas in which our small countries can and must punch above our weight. I believe our mission is to create a renewable Middle East: a regional ecosystem of sustainable peace, in which we all join forces to provide common solutions to our common challenges. Southern Israel is already powered 100% by solar energy in the daytime, and when you open the faucet in much of our land, the water you drink is all desalinated. We want to scale up these solutions with our new friends, using our respective advantages to bring clean water and clean energy to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Our budding relationship is in many ways a reunion. Jews and Muslims are not strangers but family, sharing a common ancestor: Abraham, after whom our historic accords were named. Indeed, the warm and dignified home that Bahrain provides its Jewish community is a fine expression of our common ancestor’s spirit of inclusion.

It is so good to meet again.

About the Author
Isaac Herzog is the eleventh President of the State of Israel.
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