Quarterly Updates for (16 Aug 2017 — 15 Nov 2017)

Amid the shifting regional dynamics, there were signs that Bahrain was ready to normalize its relationship with Israel. On 9/13, after Rabbi Marvin Hier had visited Bahrain, Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain’s monarch, visited the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles. The center was holding an event, titled “This Is Bahrain,” celebrating religious freedom and coexistence. There, SWC leaders Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper recounted a meeting they had held with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa earlier in 2017. They stated that Al Khalifa had denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and decided to allow Bahraini citizens to visit Israel, despite the absence of Israeli-Bahraini diplomatic ties.

Of particular interest is the fact that Hier and SWC helped build the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, amid years-long protests and court cases: it was built atop the Mamilla Cemetery, a Muslim site so old some contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad had reportedly been buried there before their tombs were moved to make way for the museum.

On 9/23, Bahraini and Western officials said that Israel and Bahrain were on the verge of normalizing their relationship, in part, due to their shared antipathy toward Iran.

This was not the first time King Hamad signaled a desire for better relations with Israel. According to cables published by WikiLeaks in 2011, Hamad reportedly told the U.S. amb. to Bahrain in 2005 that he would be willing to move beyond the then secret “intelligence/security” coordination with Israel, but that he opposed the prospect of commercial relations with Israel until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state (Haaretz, 4/8/11).