Israel has opened a diplomatic mission in one of the Persian Gulf States, according to a Finance Ministry paper being submitted for cabinet approval this week. The paper is an economic plan for the next year and does not name the location of the new mission.
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The Foreign Ministry said, “We cannot comment on this matter.”
Israel has set up 11 new diplomatic missions worldwide between 2010 and 2012, says the document, which appears on the Finance Ministry’s website. These consist of a mission in the Gulf, embassies in Ashgabat (Turkmenistan), Wellington (New Zealand), Accra (Ghana), Tirana (Albania) and the Caribbean, consulates in Guangzhou (China), Sao Paolo (Brazil), Munich and St. Petersburg, and “a diplomatic delegate to the Pacific.”
Israel’s relations with the Gulf States are a highly sensitive issue. Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, wrote in an article published by the Institute for National Security Studies in February 2012 that Israel and the Gulf States have joint economic and strategic interests.
Hadas-Handelsman, who served as head of the Israel mission in Qatar in 2002-2003 and then as director of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East department, wrote that with the peace process in a bad way, Israel was unlikely to have open relations with Gulf States, certainly not a diplomatic mission of any kind. But, he added, “this situation is fluid and could change.”
One state Israel conducted covert diplomacy with was the United Arab Emirates. In a classified cable from the State Department dated March 2009, which was disclosed by WikiLeaks, Ambassador Hadas-Handelsman tells an American diplomat that UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had “good personal relations.”
But the UAE is “not ready to do publicly what they say in private,” the ambassador is cited as saying in the cable.
Hadas-Handelsman said the UAE “believe in Israel’s role because of their perception of Israel’s close relationship with the United States, but also due to their sense that they can count on Israel against Iran.”
“They believe Israel can work magic,” he adds.
In a cable from August 2005, then Bahrain foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa tells the deputy American ambassador in Manama that he had met “Israel’s roving ambassador, Bruce Kashdan” a day earlier. Khalifa said Bahrain has had “quiet, businesslike contacts with Israel for some time.”
In another cable from April 2007, Bahrain’s then foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, told the American ambassador in Manama that after he had given an interview, the “Israeli envoy in the Gulf, [Bruce] Kashdan, had called him to say he liked the interview.”