The Israeli president met with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and other top officials ahead of traveling to the United Arab Emirates.
President Isaac Herzog on Sunday became the first Israeli head of state to make an official visit to Bahrain, beginning a two-day trip that will include a stop in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.
Bahrain and the UAE normalized relations with Israel in September 2020 under the auspices of the Abraham Accords.
Herzog was welcomed in Manama by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousif Al Jalahma.
The Israeli president thereafter was greeted by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace.
“This is a great moment and I am extremely honored to be here in the Kingdom of Bahrain. You are at the forefront of making history in the region, where Jews and Muslims can dwell together, the sons of Abraham, and move forward in peace,” said Herzog.
“It is a long process, but we can dream of it and we can see it. Our nations joined the path of peace and the Kingdom of Bahrain is really one of the pioneers in this process, joining other nations that are pursuing peace together for the benefit and well-being of our peoples and the nations in the region and the world at large,” he added.
Herzog gave Al Khalifa a silver mezuzah whose design was inspired by Torah scroll crowns symbolizing God’s coronation as king.
“We are confident that this visit has an important role in consolidating relations between our two countries and supporting our common aspirations in terms of consolidating peace and sustainable development in the region and the world,” said Al Khalifa.
“[The visit] represents an opportunity for you to witness the beauty of the religious and cultural diversity in our country and the spirit of friendliness, tolerance and peaceful coexistence among the members of our honorable society of all religions and races, reaffirming our belief in the values of peace, brotherhood and cooperation among human beings,” the Bahraini monarch added.
Herzog was slated to meet with members of the local Jewish community in the afternoon.
Before his departure, Herzog said, “This is another historic step in the relationship between Israel and Arab states, signed with the Abraham Accords, and another step towards more and more nations joining the circle of peace with the State of Israel. If one looks ahead, one sees an incredible vista of cooperation between so many industries of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and other nations that have signed the Abraham Accords, with the hope of including more and more nations in future.
“Predominantly, my visit is a visit of peace. Amid protests and other dissenting voices, the fact that today in the main paper and website in Bahrain, there is an article of mine bringing and delivering a message of peace is another step towards the inclusion of Israel in the region built on cooperation for the well-being of the nations of the region. Inshallah [God willing], we will bring another step towards peace,” said the Israeli president.
Herzog was alluding to the fact that threats were made ahead of his visit to the Gulf, leading to his security detail being increased.
Israeli media reported that small protests against Herzog’s visit were held in several areas of Bahrain on Friday, with some participants chanting, “death to Israel.” The demonstrators were reportedly connected to pro-Iranian Shiite opposition groups.
Members of Bahrain’s ruling family are Sunni Muslims, wheareas overall the country is Shiite-majority.
On Monday, Herzog will hold a tête-à-tête with the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, their fourth meeting since the Israeli president took office in July 2021.