DUBAI, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s interior minister said on Monday that normalising ties with Israel protects Bahrain’s interests and strengthens its strategic partnership with the United States, amid an ongoing threat from Iran.
“It is not an abandonment of the Palestinian cause … it is to strengthen Bahrainis’ security and their economic stability,” minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in a statement.
Bahrain on Friday said it would normalise relations with Israel, following the path of the UAE who declared it would do the same a month ago, in moves forged partly through shared fears of Iran.
“Iran has chosen to behave in a dominating way in several forms and has become a constant danger that harms our internal security,” Khalifa said, adding that it was wise to forestall dangers.
The small Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is ruled by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family. The government often accuses Iran, ruled by a Shi’ite Muslim leadership, of seeking to subvert Bahrain.
Bahrain has suffered ongoing unrest since a failed uprising in 2011. It is also striving to bring down its deficit.
Manama was bailed out in 2018 with a $10 billion aid package from wealthy Persian Gulf neighbors to avoid a credit crunch. The International Monetary Fund has said it expects Bahrain’s fiscal deficit to jump to 15.7% of gross domestic product this year from 10.6% in 2019.
Bahrain and Israel’s defence ministers held their first publicly acknowledged phone call on Monday, and another pair of ministers separately discussed commercial possibilities between the two countries.
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah and Marwa Rashad; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Franklin Paul and Jonathan Oatis)