Israel signs defense agreement with Bahrain in Gulf first

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Israel signed a defense agreement with Bahrain on Thursday, its first such deal with a Gulf country since establishing diplomatic ties with Manama and Abu Dhabi more than a year ago.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, making his first visit to Bahrain, said the memorandum of understanding, that covers intelligence, procurement and joint training, takes the countries’ relationship to “new heights.”

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Bahrain and the UAE normalized relations with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords agreements in September 2020.

“Only one year following the signing of the accords, we have achieved an important defense agreement, which will contribute to the security of both countries and the stability of the region,” Gantz said in a statement.

Gantz earlier called for deeper cooperation with Gulf partners to confront “maritime and aerial threats,” as he toured the US Fifth Fleet headquarters based in Bahrain.

The defense minister toured the guided missile destroyer USS Cole, which is set to make its way to Abu Dhabi to help defend the UAE against attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis.

The USS Cole was the target of an al-Qaeda suicide bombing in the southern Yemeni harbor of Aden in October 2000 that killed 17 sailors.

The US base in Bahrain lies just across the Gulf from Iran. The waters are crossed by hundreds of oil and cargo vessels every day.

There has been an increase in attacks on shipping in recent years that the US and its allies have blamed on Iran. The Islamic republic denies the allegations.

“Against a backdrop of increasing maritime and aerial threats, our ironclad cooperation is more important than ever,” Gantz tweeted.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to stand united in defense of the sovereignty of our regional partners as well as peace and stability in the region.”

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