Intellectuals and human rights activists in Bahrain expressed Saturday their fierce opposition to the kingdom's move to normalize ties with Israel, saying the decision is a "betrayal" of the Palestinian people.
Israel and Bahrain announced the decision on Friday in a joint statement along with the United States. The agreement will be signed on Tuesday in Washington, senior officials in Israel's Foreign Ministry said that the ministry will soon open an embassy in Manama.
Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke on Saturday with his Bahraini counterpart Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in a phonecall and "exchanged friendly talks on the occasion of the peace declaration." The two ministers also "stressed the need to move these relations forward in all aspects in a way that serves the mutual interests and promotes peace and stability in the region," said the Bahrain Foreign Ministry in a statement.
A Shia majority country ruled by a Sunni minority, Bahrain is experiencing more popular opposition to the deal with Israel than the UAE. After the move was announced, Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Husam Zomlot said that "Bahrainis against normalization" was trending high on Bahraini Twitter.
Organizations representing the Shia majority in the kingdom, which make up 70 percent of the Bahraini population, rejected to move to establish ties with Israel.
Bahrain's opposition umbrella group, the al-Wefaq political association, condemned the move and called it "betrayal." In addition, the group said that the Bahraini regime is illegitimate, dubbing Israel an illegitimate entity."
The organization, which is illegal in Bahrain, but is very influential there, said in a statement that it opposes the normalization with Israel due to its support for the Palestinian people.
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Furthermore, President of Bahrain Forum for Human Rights Baker Darwish said that the Bahraini people view "Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine," adding that "any normalization with Israel is betrayal."
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza burnt pictures of Israeli, U.S., Bahraini and United Arab Emirates leaders. The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen, was organized by the ruling Islamist group Hamas. "We have to fight the virus of normalization and block all its paths before it succeeds, to prevent it from spreading," said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
Immediately after the deal was announced by Trump, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki recalled the Palestinian Authority's ambassador to Bahrain, citing a "dangerous violation of the Arab Peace Initiative" and "threat to Palestinian rights."
An official statement by the Palestinian Liberation Organization condemned the deal as supporting "the legalization of Israel's ugly crimes against the Palestinian people."
Palestinians fear the moves by the UAE and now Bahrain will weaken a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to Abdallah Hamdok, the prime minister of Sudan’s transitional government, offering American aid in responding to the mass floods that have hit the country and saying the White House hopes Sudan will be the next to join the so-called Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab states.
The agreements will likely be seen as a further setback to the Palestinians who tried unsuccessfully to have the Arab League condemn normalization with Israel until they have secured an independent state. That was one of the few cards still held by Palestinians in negotiations as peace talks remain stalled.
Also denouncing the decision, Iran said that Bahrain's move to normalize relations with Israel meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies which threatened regional security, Iranian state TV reported on Saturday.
Iran's foreign ministry said that it would hold the governments of Bahrain and its allies responsible for any insecurity caused by Israel in the Gulf region.
"Bahrain's shameful move sacrifices the Palestinian cause and decades of struggle ... at the expense of the U.S. election," Iranian TV quoted a foreign ministry statement as saying.
"An oppressive regime (Bahrain) and a city-state (UAE) have decided to establish a full diplomatic relationship with an apartheid regime (Israel) by the mediation of a bully (Donald Trump)," Diako Hosseini, adviser to the presidential office in Tehran, wrote on Twitter.
DPA contributed to this report.