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Mossad chief holds talks with Bahrain as ties with Israel deepen

Yossi Cohen reported to have discussed 'mutual interests' with his Bahraini counterparts during visit
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen pictured in 2017 (AFP)

Israel's top spy chief Yossi Cohen has held talks with Bahrain's intelligence services following the two countries recent normalisation of relations, Bahraini state media reported on Thursday. 

The Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said that Cohen, director of Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, had visited Bahrain on Wednesday to discuss "topics of mutual interest" and "cooperation between the two countries".

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"They stressed the importance... of the role the [normalisation deal] will play in significantly contributing to promoting stability and peace in the region," BNA said.

Bahrain's normalisation deal was signed in Washington last month at the same time as an Israel-UAE normalisation agreement. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to the US capital for the ceremony, along with the foreign affairs chiefs of the two Gulf states.

Bahrain and the UAE became the third and fourth Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel, following Jordan in 1994 and Egypt in 1979.

'Great divergence'

Bahrainis however reacted with anger at the government's move and quickly turned the hashtag "Bahrainis against normalisation" into the most popular topic on social media. 

Both religious and political figures in the kingdom also released statements rejecting the deal.

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"There is a great divergence between the rulers and the ruled in thought, mind, aims and interests. Governments are experiencing a psychological defeat and want to impose it on the people, and the people have to resist this defeat," said Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, who lives in Iran.

Qassim is the spiritual leader of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's biggest opposition society.

As the leading cleric for the country's Shia majority, he has previously criticised their treatment by the minority Sunni royal family. 

The Palestinians have condemned the US-brokered Gulf deals with Israel as "a stab in the back" for their aspirations to establish an independent state of their own.

They argue it violates a longstanding pan-Arab position that Israel could normalise relations only in return for land.