Israeli president touts business ties on first visit to Bahrain

DUBAI, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa met President Isaac Herzog on Sunday, the first Israeli head of state since two years ago. The first visit to a Gulf government since a right-wing coalition was formed in Israel.

Herzog, whose post is mainly ceremonial, will then visit the United Arab Emirates, which has also normalized relations with Israel in the US-brokered Abraham Accords and has already hosted the Israeli president.

“I am here with a distinguished delegation leading the Israeli business sector eager to connect and do business with the people of Bahrain,” Herzog said in a statement provided by his office.

King Hamad also expressed hope that the visit would strengthen bilateral relations, while stressing Manama’s support for “a just, comprehensive and sustainable peace that guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” state news agency BNA reported.

After last month’s elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s incoming Israeli government looks likely to include far-right politicians who oppose Palestinian statehood and want to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in the West Bank.

Among them was ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who joined Israeli officials including Netanyahu at Thursday’s UAE National Day celebrations at the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv.

The Sunni Muslim-ruled UAE and Bahrain broke with decades of Arab policy when they forged ties with Israel without Palestinian statehood, under Netanyahu in 2020, in part because of concerns about Shia There are shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and growing regional influence.

Reporting by Mayaan Lubell in Jerusalem and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Alexander Smith

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