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Israel-Bahrain: Knesset delegation visits Manama in fresh normalisation move

MPs to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference on Saturday, in the first official trip by Israeli lawmakers to the country
A Gulf Air A320 aeroplane coming from the Bahraini capital Manama arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, 30 September 2021 (AFP)
A Gulf Air A320 airplane arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv from Bahrain, 30 September 2021 (AFP)

An Israeli Knesset delegation visited Bahrain on Thursday ahead of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference hosted in the capital of Manama next Saturday.

Bahrain and Israel signed a normalisation of a US-brokered deal in Washington in September 2020, and since then, they have exchanged diplomats and signed agreements in security and commerce.

However, this is the first official parliamentary delegation to visit Manama, which is planning to meet the Emirati envoy, the Middle East committee of the IPU, and discusses complaints against Israel raised by some of the 179 members of the organisation, which was founded in 1889.

Danny Danon, an MP and former Israeli representative at the United Nations, will head the delegation, which includes the MPs Dan Illouz, Yifat Shasha-Biton, and Elazar Stern.

Yisrael Hayom newspaper reported that Israel expects to be condemned during the five-day conference by members of Arab countries for its actions against Palestinians, which would prompt a response from the Israeli delegation.

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The delegation is also planning to schedule a meeting on the Iranian nuclear programme, which concerns Tel Aviv and Manama, and would ask members of the IPU to impose sanctions on Iran, according to Yisrael Hayom. 

Danon described the IPU conference as "the most important conference for parliaments. We are going there to represent Israel and promote issues of concern to Israel."

He added that "the challenge facing the [Israeli] delegation will be to influence more countries to join the sanctions imposed on Iran".

“The timing of the visit to Bahrain presents the Israeli delegation with many challenges at a time when we are witnessing unprecedented diplomatic pressure from the Palestinian Authority, which is harming Israel's image. But I am confident that through appropriate work, we will be able to achieve achievements for Israel through the Inter-Parliamentary Union," he added.

Manama's visit also comes while thousands of Israelis are protesting up and down the country against judicial reforms proposed by the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli opponents call these reforms a coup d'etat that threatens to turn the country into a "dictatorship" led by the most far-right coalition in Israel's history.

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