Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited a U.S. warship alongside his Bahraini counterpart during his Thursday visit to the Gulf state, sending what Israeli officials called a clear signal to Iran.
Sources told Haaretz that two countries are looking into cooperation in responding to Iranian drone attacks, which is seen as a growing threat in the region.
Lapid and Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani posed for an image against the battleship, USS Pearl Harbor, along with a top U.S. Navy official, Brad Cooper, and U.S. chargé d’affaires Maggie Nardi. An Israeli official called it "an important strategic event."
"Iran is developing unmanned warfare capabilities – drones, but not just that," said an Israeli source. "It disturbs everyone," the source added.
"Everyone knows very well what sort of capabilities we're bringing to the table," according to the Israeli source, in part to ensure Bahraini vessels are safe to pass through the Gulf and other waterways in the region.
Lapid met with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama on Thursday, the highest-level official Israeli visit to the Gulf state since the countries established ties last year. The foreign minister said the "warm and hopeful" meeting demonstrated "true cooperation" between the countries.
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Lapid and the king discussed security, including Iran, and economic issues. It is considered unusual for the Bahraini king to meet with foreign officials at the ministerial level.
Iran, Bahrain’s neighbor on the other side of the Gulf, is considered to be the most important threat to the kingdom’s future – a fear shared by Israel. Bahrain's king announced in 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring, that an attempted coup that was prevented, which seems to have originated in the Iranian regime.
The Bahraini Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, publicly criticized Iran harshly during his visit to Israel in August. “What we see, speaking from a Bahraini perspective and the experience of my country with Iran, is continuous interference in domestic affairs in my country,” he said. “If you look into the crises across the Middle East, you will find one red thread that would go across all those crises, you would find an Iranian finger.”
During his visit Thursday, Lapid also inaugurated Israel's Embassy in Manama.
A diplomatic source said the Bahraini reception and the series of high-profile meetings in Manama attest to the kingdom's wish to make its ties with Israel public.