Bahrain Conference Blip on Israel’s Radar as Political, Iran Crises Swirl

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
bahrain conference
Eli Cohen, Minister of Economy and Industry (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90, File)

The U.S.-led conference in Bahrain designed to drum up investment in the Palestinian economy and pave a path to peace with Israel has gone largely unremarked by Israelis preoccupied with a political crisis and the threat from Iran.

With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu facing proliferating challengers in a new election due in September, and beset by corruption scandals, the hazier-than-ever peacemaking horizon with the Palestinians drew scant discussion in Israeli media.

Economy Minister Eli Cohen went as far as to suggest that Bahrain may have closed the door on further diplomacy.

“We saw that, even in an economic conference where the Palestinians were meant to come and get money, to come and get tools and inducements, to come and develop their economy, they did not come,” he told Israel’s Channel 13.

“We see, really, that they do not want a peace accord. They simply don’t want us here…Again, the Palestinians’ true face has been exposed.”

PM Netanyahu described the Bahrain gathering as part of a U.S. effort “to bring about a better future and solve the region’s problems,” and promised that his government would give the proposals a fair hearing.

Two days before it opened, he toured the strategic Jordan Valley, the easternmost part of Yehudah and Shomron that borders Jordan, with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and reiterated that Israel must retain a presence there in any peace deal.

Israeli journalists were at Bahrain, a rarity for a Gulf state that does not formally recognize Israel. The resulting coverage focused as much on wider Israeli-Arab contacts and Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community as on the Palestinian no-shows.

Cohen, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said Arab delegates saw Bahrain as a chance to close ranks with Israel on bilateral commerce and in the face of a common adversary.

“This was, in fact, a regional summit against Iran,” he said. “We see here a coalition in the Middle East…They (Arab powers) understand that their security threat is Iran.”