With Israel continuing to ally itself with Arab nations across the Middle East against the regional threat presented by Iran, a security official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry made a rare visit to Bahrain to attend a security conference there this week.
Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, director of regional security and counterterrorism in the Foreign Ministry, attended the two-day Warsaw Ministerial Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group meeting focused on thwarting the Islamic Republic’s growing regional aggression.
The conference was co-hosted by Bahrain, the U.S. and Poland, and drew representatives from 60 nations.
“The meeting is an occasion to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation,” Bahrain’s foreign ministry said on Twitter.
In a speech, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa referred to recent attacks on Saudi oil fields and ships in the region believed to have been perpetrated by Iran.
“These actions threaten global commerce, the stability of our global and interconnected economy, and the security of our region. The threat is serious and must be addressed,” he said.
The emergence of these new alliances signals that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer taking centerstage among Arab leaders. Many have openly called the Iranian threat a more pressing concern, and this has opened the door for more interaction with Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even attended the original Warsaw conference alongside senior dignitaries from the Arab world in February.
“Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area,” —Vice President Mike Pence at the time.
Bahrain does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, but hosted the American-led conference in June where a portion of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was unveiled.
“Israel is a country in the region and it’s there to stay, of course,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told The Times of Israel at the time.
The conference’s focus on air and maritime navigation comes amid soaring tensions in the Gulf between the U.S. and Iran since America pulled out of the nuclear deal last year. Saudi oil infrastructure was attacked twice in recent weeks, knocking out half the kingdom’s production. Iran denied any involvement in the attacks, but Iran-backed rebels fighting a Saudi coalition in Yemen claimed responsibility.