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Bahraini opposition to normalisation with Israel continues to delay full peace deal

Israeli delegation in Manama accompanied by US officials only signed a declaration establishing diplomatic relations
Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have condemned Bahrain's decision to normalise relations with Israel (Reuters)

Continued opposition in Bahrain to the normalisation of relations with Israel has further delayed plans to fully normalise ties between the two countries, according to media reports. 

Israeli officials confirmed to Haaretz that popular opposition in Bahrain to a deal with Israel has delayed the signing of a full peace agreement of the kind Israel signed with the United Arab Emirates last month. 

Palestinians argue that normalisation goes against a historic pan-Arab position that only an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood would allow for normal relations with the Arab countries.

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The continued opposition in Bahrain has meant that an Israeli delegation accompanied by the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin which landed in Manama on Sunday only signed a declaration on establishing diplomatic relations. 

The declaration included an intent to sign a full peace deal that will lead to cooperation agreements in aviation, trade, energy, health and science. 

An Israeli diplomat said that the declarations will not be submitted to the United Nations because they do not have the same legal power as a full agreement.

"It will be a de-facto peace treaty in every way, and after it is signed, full diplomatic relations will be obtained between the states," the diplomat told Haaretz. 

Symbolic flight

The travel route for Sunday's declaration involved a symbolic direct El Al flight from Israel to Bahrain that flew over Saudi Arabia. 

Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, speaking in Arabic at an arrival ceremony at Manama airport, said: "This is a great day... We look forward, Inshallah (God willing), to hosting you in Israel soon."

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani described the engagement and cooperation as "the most effective, the most sustainable means to bring about a genuine and lasting peace, one which safeguards the rights of the Middle East peoples".

Last month, Israel signed a "Declaration of Peace, Cooperation, and Constructive Diplomatic and Friendly Relations" at a White House ceremony, a document that falls short of a formal treaty. 

Following the signing of the deal, the hashtag "Bahrainis against normalisation" was the number one trending topic in the Gulf kingdom. 

Opposition is so strong that Bahrain has refrained from using the term "normalisation," which signifies to some Bahrainis domination over Palestinians.

A 13 September report by Israel's intelligence ministry saw potential for defence cooperation with Bahrain, describing it as threatened by "Shiite political sedition, directed by Iran and its proxies".

Israel could also help Bahrain with renewable energy, food security and banking and finance technologies, it said.