Israel defense minister on first-ever visit to Bahrain

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz landed in Bahrain on Wednesday, the latest high-profile diplomatic trip since the countries normalized ties, his office said.

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Gantz, who is the first Israeli defense minister to ever officially visit the Gulf country, travelled with several top military and security officials, including navy chief Admiral David Saar Salama.

“The aircraft carrying the delegation is the first IAF [Israeli Air Force] plane to land in Bahrain,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

“Throughout the visit, the minister is expected to conduct meetings with high ranking officials in the Bahraini defense establishment and with the Kingdom’s leadership,” it added.

The visit comes less than two years after the Gulf country forged diplomatic ties with Israel, becoming the fourth Arab nation to do so following close ally the United Arab Emirates, as well as Egypt and Jordan.

Last year Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made the first ministerial visit to Bahrain, where he inaugurated an embassy in Manama.

The normalization between Bahrain and Israel was one of a series of US-brokered agreements known as the Abraham Accords.

The deals angered the Palestinians, and broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognizing Israel until it signs a peace agreement establishing a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.

The accords were negotiated by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who said they would offer Israel new regional allies against Iran and bolster its diplomatic efforts to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

It was not immediately clear if international talks on Iran’s nuclear program would be discussed during Gantz’s visit.
Gantz travelled to Morocco late last year, after the North African kingdom agreed to establish full ties with Israel in another US-brokered pact.

During that visit, the countries signed an agreement that is set to make it easier for Morocco to purchase products from Israel’s defense industry.

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