Dec 2, 2020 - World

Israel's embassy in Bahrain comes out into the open

Illustration of a business "open" sign slipping to reveal an Israel flag

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Israel plans to open an official embassy in Bahrain by the end of December, formalizing 25 years of secret diplomatic contacts, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel already had a diplomatic mission in Manama for the last 11 years, run out of a front company that was listed as a commercial consulting firm. Now, there will be an Israeli flag and a sign on the door.

The state of play: The new embassy will not be in the same location as the secret diplomatic mission, which will shut down.

  • In order to open the new embassy as quickly as possible, it will be located in temporary offices.

Driving the news: The two Israeli diplomats who will staff the embassy arrived in Manama last week with their Israeli diplomatic passports.

  • The Israeli diplomats were welcomed by Bahraini Foreign Ministry representatives and given official accreditations.
  • On Monday, the senior Israeli diplomat charged with opening the embassies in Bahrain and the UAE, Dror Gabbay, arrived in Manama and viewed several potential locations for the embassy offices.
  • Bahraini Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Zayed al-Zayani arrived in Israel today with a large trade and business delegation to push forward with more agreements and deals.

Behind the scenes: The new embassy staff is under strict security protocols in the aftermath of the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

  • Bahrain issued a statement condemning the assassination and calling for all parties to show restraint in order to avoid further escalation.

What they're saying: Gabbay told me the Bahrainis have been very helpful and given a warm welcome to the Israeli diplomats.

  • “It was all very natural and easygoing. I am not sure I would have believed you if you told me this would be the reality three months ago," he said.
  • Gabbay stressed that Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s instructions were to open the embassy as soon as possible in order to start providing consular services, issuing visas and pushing forward business deals.

What’s next: Gabbay told me the goal is to move the embassy to a permanent location by the end of 2021.

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