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Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani (R) and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat bump elbows after a signing ceremony. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

MANAMA, Bahrain — Israel and Bahrain signed an agreement on establishing diplomatic relations in Manama on Sunday, one month after a historic ceremony at the White House.

Why it matters: The "joint communique on establishing peaceful and diplomatic relations" is an interim agreement on the path to a comprehensive peace treaty, paving the way for the two countries to open embassies and sign more cooperation agreements.

The state of play: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House envoy Avi Berkowitz were in attendance at the signing alongside Bahrain's foreign minister and Israel's national security adviser.

  • Mnuchin and Berkowitz arrived in Manama together with an Israeli delegation on the first direct flight of an Israeli airliner to Bahrain — El Al Flight 973, a reference to Bahrain's telephone code.
  • Israeli and Bahraini officials held talks for several hours and inked eight memorandums of understanding (MOU) on visas, trade, agriculture, investments, direct flights, finance and investments.
  • Mnuchin stood by as officials signed the MOUs alongside the agreement on diplomatic relations.

What they're saying: "Today is just a first step for Israel, Bahrain and the U.S. and an important step for strengthening stability in the region. We have a big opportunity in security, in trade, in travel and in many other fields," Mnuchin said.

What's next: Minutes after the signing ceremony, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official handed the Bahraini foreign minister a diplomatic note with a formal request for opening an Israeli embassy in Manama. Israeli officials told me they want to open the new embassy before the end of the year.

Sign up for my brand new weekly newsletter, Axios from Tel Aviv.

Go deeper

Jan 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse under scrutiny for elite club affiliations

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in February. Photo: Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Image

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement Wednesday that he is a member of an exclusive Rhode Island sailing club that lacks diversity.

Why it matters: Whitehouse has repeatedly spoken out against systemic racism and come under scrutiny this week for his family's affiliation with elite clubs. This is the second such club accused of lacking diversity that the senator has been linked to in recent days

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Border Democrats want migrants vaccinated

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Some Democrats representing border districts want President Biden to vaccinate migrants crossing into the U.S. — especially if he lifts public health restrictions that have prevented them from claiming asylum on American soil.

Why it matters: Inoculating migrants treads a fine line of protecting the U.S. population while possibly incentivizing more migration with the offer of free COVID-19 vaccines. Republicans are likely to pounce on that.