Israeli delegation cancels visit to Bahrain after outcry

Updated April 15, 2019

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Bahrain Financial Harbour (L) and Bahrain World Trade Center are seen in the diplomatic area in Manama, Bahrain on February 28, 2018. —  Reuters
Bahrain Financial Harbour (L) and Bahrain World Trade Center are seen in the diplomatic area in Manama, Bahrain on February 28, 2018. — Reuters

DUBAI: A delegation from Israel that was due to attend a conference in Bahrain this week has pulled out due to security concerns, the organisers said on Sunday, after Bahrainis held an extensive campaign against the visit.

A spokeswoman for Israel’s Economy Ministry said a planned visit to Bahrain this week by Israel’s Economy Minister Eli Cohen had been “delayed because of political issues”.

Israel and the Gulf Arab countries are in the midst of a diplomatic push aimed at forging an alliance against Iran.

Their efforts have become increasingly public after years of mostly covert contact due to strong opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

A group of around 30 Israeli business executives and government officials was scheduled to participate in a congress organised by the US-based Global Entre­preneurship Network (GEN) in Bahrain on April 15-18.

This prompted an outcry in Bahrain, with parliament joining calls on social media for the visit to be cancelled and some street protests held in Manama.

“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” Jona­than Ortmans, GEN president, said in a statement.

A source close to the matter said three Israeli speakers had cancelled because they were unable to obtain visas while the rest of the delegation had “decided not to go”.

The Bahraini government said the delegation had been invited at the sole initiative of the Global Entrepreneur­ship Network.

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

Last week a group of Bahraini lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get a court to stop immigration authorities from issuing visas.

“Bahrain’s parliament announces that the people of Bahrain rejects any Israeli presence on its territory and its lands and any decision allowing this presence is unacceptable,” lawmakers said.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2019