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Tuesday Sep 15 2020

Bahrain's minister says Israel deal protects country's interests amid Iran threat

The flags of Israel and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya, Israel September 14, 2020. REUTERS

DUBAI: Bahrain’s interior minister on Monday said that normalising ties with Israel strengthens Bahrain's strategic partnership with the United States and protects Bahrain’s interests amid an ongoing threat from Iran.

“It is not an abandonment of the Palestinian cause ... it is to strengthen Bahrainis’ security and their economic stability,” minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa said in a statement.

Bahrain on Friday said it would normalise relations with Israel, following the path of the UAE who declared it would do the same a month ago, in moves forged partly through shared fears of Iran.

“Iran has chosen to behave in a dominating way in several forms and has become a constant danger that harms our internal security,” Khalifa said, adding that it was wise to forestall dangers.

Read more: Trump announces Bahrain, Israel 'peace deal'

The small Gulf state of Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is ruled by the Al Khalifa family. The government often accuses Iran of seeking to subvert Bahrain.

Bahrain has suffered ongoing unrest since a failed uprising in 2011. It is also striving to bring down its deficit.

Manama was bailed out in 2018 with a $10 billion aid package from wealthy Gulf neighbours to avoid a credit crunch. The International Monetary Fund has said it expects Bahrain’s fiscal deficit to jump to 15.7% of gross domestic product this year from 10.6% in 2019.

Bahrain and Israel’s defence ministers held their first publicly acknowledged phone call on Monday, and another pair of ministers separately discussed commercial possibilities between the two countries.