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Bahrain's FM's visit to Israel took place in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv Open in fullscreen

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Bahrain's FM's visit to Israel took place in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv

Abdellatif Al-Zayani is Bahrain's FM [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 November, 2020

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Contrary to official statements from Manama, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdellatif Al-Zayani was in the contested city of Jerusalem during his visit to Israel.

Bahrain's foreign minister spent more than 12 hours in the contested city of Jerusalem on Wednesday, despite claims by Manama that his visit to Israel was spent wholly in the internationally-recognised capital, Tel Aviv.

On Wednesday, Abdellatif Al-Zayani, arrived in Israel on the first official visit by a Bahraini minister to the country.

Official statements from Bahrain claimed he spent all Wednesday in the capital city of Tel Aviv, but Israeli records show that Al-Zayani also spent time in Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv is the internationally-recognised capital city of Israel until US President Donald Trump broke decades of neutrality and moved his country's embassy there. The international community saw this as a huge break from accepted protocol.

One newspaper, The Times of Israel, even alleged that Al-Zayani "did not even step foot" in Tel Aviv outside of landing in the airport, despite Manama's national news agency claiming he made statements inside the coastal city.

Al-Zayani met his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi at the airport and reportedly went to the foreign ministry – located in Jerusalem – where they discussed opening a Bahraini embassy in Israel.

"Al Zayani has conveyed to his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi Bahrain's approval of the request by Tel Aviv to open an embassy in Manama," according to a statement by Bahrain foreign ministry, without specifying which city the embassy will be in.

Soon after, Al-Zayani visited the official residence of President Reuven Rivlin, which is located in Jerusalem's HaNassi Street.

"Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem," the Israeli head of state told his prominent guest, according to a statement by Rivlin's office.

"The whole world should come and see the flags of Israel and Bahrain, flying together today - here at the President's Residence and in the streets of Jerusalem."

However, according to Bahrain's foreign ministry website, the meetings took place "on the occasion of [al-Zayani's] visit to Tel Aviv".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an address on Wednesday, saying it is a "pleasure" to see US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Al-Zayani in Jerusalem.

"Secretary of State Pompeo, my dear friend Mike, it's always a pleasure to see you in Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Dr. Al-Zayani, it's a pleasure to see you again, and it's a tremendous pleasure to welcome you for the first time ever in Jerusalem," Netanyahu said, at the beginning of a joint statement the three men made at the top of their meeting. 

"It's great to be back in Jerusalem, as always, the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland," Pompeo said, standing next to Netanyahu and Al-Zayani.

But the Bahraini diplomat carefully avoided naming the city from where he was speaking and merely mentioned his "visit to Israel".

Normalisation as a betrayal 

In September, Bahrain became the second Gulf Arab state and fourth Arab country to officially normalise relations with Israel.

The move came just weeks after US President Donald Trump made a shock announcement that the United Arab Emirates had normalised relations with Israel. 

Officials from Gulf states and Israel expressed that the Arab world has entered a "new era" with normalisation, and claimed that the conjunction of their regimes shows a more "progressive" attitude towards Israel.

At the time, Bahraini citizens silently protested normalisation with Israel, despite there being an ongoing crackdown on dissidents.

An Arabic hashtag which translates to "Bahrain against normalisation", has become widely used.

"If it wasn't for the way in which protesters were suppressed during the Arab Spring, I can guarantee you that there would be thousands taking the streets in support for Palestine right now," a Bahraini activist who identified himself as Mohammad, told The New Arab at the time.

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