Despite ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza Strip, a Bahraini ex-ambassador to the United Kingdom and senior member of ruling royal family says Abraham Accords will stay in place.
Asked by The Media Line about Bahraini public’s growing pressure to end Israel ties over Gaza war, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa replied, “This will not happen.”
Al Khalifa, Bahraini ambassador to the UK from 1996 to 2001, also held other senior administrative posts in the kingdom. He said Bahraini government “will not be phased” by such attitudes unless there is an overwhelming majority, which there is not.
Under the Abraham Accords signed in September 2020, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates normalized relations with Israel, followed in December of that year by Morocco.
Al Khalifa said roughly 50% Shia Muslim population in Bahrain “can at times be more sympathetic to extreme points of view … [but] you cannot keep changing sides every time you don’t like a government that comes into power in a country you have a relationship with. We see this not just with Israel but with many other countries.”
Sheikh made his comments at a small private online event hosted by ROPES, the Regional Organization for Peace, Economics, and Security, a nonprofit organization working to promote regional Arab-Israeli peace agreement. ROPES aims to connect forward-thinking and emerging leaders from Israel, Palestinian territories, and about 10 Arab countries, and its network of alumni includes members of parliament, diplomats, journalists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists.
The online event hosted by ROPES Executive Director and former Knesset member Ksenia Svetlova. Ben Birnbaum, organization’s founder and president, spoke about ROPES’ mission and work, and several employees and alumni spoke about their experiences with the organization, including Program Coordinator Amira Mohammed, an East Jerusalem Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, and Alumni Relations Director and co-host of the “ROPEScast” podcast Ibrahim Abu Ahmad, a Palestinian Israeli from the Nazareth area.
Antisemitism, Iran and Palestinians: What does the future hold?
Topics included antisemitism around the world, future of the Abraham Accords, Iranian influence in the region, and peace prospects with the Palestinians.
Speaking of global anti-Semitism, Al Khalifa said, “What’s happening on campuses in the US and parts of Europe, you’d never see in the Arab world today. … You’d be wrong to assume that, even in religious countries like Saudi Arabia, there’s this widespread hatred of Jews.”
On Iran, panelists discussed need to expand the Abraham Accords.
“We all need to become part of a community that can face those kinds of challenges … and we would love not only the UAE and Bahrain and Morocco and the countries of the Abraham Accords, but all of the Arab world to be on the same side with Israel, with Palestine, fighting security threats from those other countries,” Al Khalifa said.
Hot topic at event was current Israel-Hamas conflict. Speakers acknowledged going back to status quo before attacks of Oct. 7 is unlikely, and ROPES was already focusing on what comes next. Speakers said answer lies in next generation of leaders.
“[Despite the] darkness that has engulfed us, we are proud in ROPES to have a resilient network of young leaders who are dedicated and still have their eyes on the ball, on the big picture … a post-war stabilized Middle East that fully integrates Israel and the Palestinians, ideally based on the two-state solution,” Svetlova said.
Al Khalifa said majority of Palestinians and rest of Arab world, apart from Hamas and other extremist groups, all want a two-state solution.
“So the ball is in the Israeli government’s court,” he said. “We need to figure out boundaries and details, including securing safety for Israel that ensures Israeli people do not come under threat and can stay until the end of time. But Palestinians deserve to live as normal human beings with freedom and ability to run their country independently.”
Al Khalifa said taking a “baby steps” approach might be best way forward. Signing a peace deal “doesn’t mean opening the gates right away,” he said.
“It will take will and commitment and a period of trust-building… Palestinians are going to continue to pose a threat if they continue living as they are,” he said.
But even more than this, Al Khalifa said that “the players have to change.” He said Palestinian Authority is ineffective and PA President Mahmoud Abbas “understands that they need elections.” And he said Israeli people also need both change in leadership and a leap of faith.
“I think Israeli people need to listen to people in the Arab world who say, we come as friends, and believe us, you will not be left alone with a future Palestinian state. We will be there to ensure the transition, and standing by to see that both sides stick to their sides of the deal,” he said.
Birnbaum said, “It’s not enough for Palestinians and Israelis to be the only ones at the table if we want a peace deal. Other regional actors must be involved.”