Why did Israel cancel its delegation’s visit to Manama?

An Israeli delegation scheduled to attend an international economic conference in Bahrain this week cancelled its trip to Manama for security reasons, the organizers announced Sunday, after Bahrainis had led a major campaign against the visit.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Economy said that the delegation should be headed by the Israeli Minister of Economy, Eli Cohen, and that the visit was “delayed due to political problems”. The Israeli minister was scheduled to attend an international conference in Manama on April 15, organized by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) group.

“Although we have informed the Israeli delegation that they will be welcome in Bahrain, they have decided not to come for security reasons and not to disturb the other 180 participating countries,” said Group Chairman Jonathan Ortmans on Sunday.

The cancellation came after the Kingdom’s Parliament issued a statement condemning the visit of the Israeli delegation and several demonstrations in the streets of Manama.

Bahraini sources had previously announced that an Israeli delegation of 45 business and government leaders, led by Eli Cohen, would participate in the annual conference that GEN (based in the United States) is organizing in Manama from 15 to 18 April.

The invitation to the Israeli delegation caused an outcry in Bahrain, with the Kingdom’s Parliament rallying to calls on social networks to demand the cancellation of the Israeli visit, especially as demonstrations took place in the streets of Manama.

In response to the protests, the Bahraini government claimed that the Israeli delegation had been invited at the sole initiative of GEN.

“Our responsibility is to ensure a safe and supportive environment for the delegations present,” the government said in a statement.

Last week, a group of Bahraini lawyers tried unsuccessfully to obtain from a court that the authorities do not issue visas to members of the Israeli delegation.

Under pressure from Bahraini public opinion, the Parliament announced in a statement that “the people refuse any Israeli presence on their territory and consider any decision authorizing such presence unacceptable”.

Although Israel does not maintain diplomatic relations with any of the six member countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait), analysts claim that some of these countries are increasingly trying to normalize their relations with Tel Aviv.


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