Israel foreign minister in Bahrain for landmark visit

Israel’s foreign minister has arrived in Bahrain for the highest-level official Israeli visit to the Gulf state since the countries established ties last year.

An Israeli foreign ministry statement said Yair Lapid, who had been invited by his Bahraini counterpart, will inaugurate the Israeli embassy in Manama on Thursday and is “expected to sign a list of bilateral agreements”.

“This will be the first official visit by an Israeli minister to (Bahrain),” the statement said.

After Lapid landed, Bahrain carrier Gulf Air launched its first direct flight between Manama and Tel Aviv.

Following negotiations spearheaded by former US President Donald Trump, the United Arab Emirates, followed quickly by Bahrain and Morocco, last year became the first Arab states in decades to normalise relations with Israel.

The deals enraged the Palestinians, who felt a betrayal of their national cause. They saw it as an abandonment of a longstanding commitment in the Arab world not to normalise relations with Israel until there was progress in resolving the decades-long occupation of Palestinian land.

Israel had earlier reached peace treaties with neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.

Protesters burned tyres on the outskirts of Manama early Thursday, sending clouds of black smoke into the air, and the hashtag #BahrainRejectsZionists in Arabic was circulating on social media.

Extra security was stationed on the route to the airport and no Israeli flags were visible on main roads. Opposition activists have called for further protests later on Thursday.

Since the normalisation agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, were signed, ties have expanded between Israel and its new Gulf partners, notably including direct flights and economic deals.

Lapid is the main architect of the Israeli coalition government that removed ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who signed the Abraham Accords.

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