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Friday, July 03, 2009

Yup - Bahrain did make a state visit to Israel

Looks like I had a scoop this morning. From Ma'an:
In the Gulf nation's apparent first state visit to Israel, Bahraini officials arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday to accompany five nationals awaiting deportation.

"[T]he Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior sent a mission to Ben Gurion Airport to receive the Bahrainis detained," according to the Bahrain News Agency.

All 21 crew members of an aid ship bound for Gaza, including the five Bahraini citizens, a Nobel laureate and former US congresswoman and the ship itself, were seized and towed to the Israeli port city of Ashdod on Tuesday afternoon.

Friday's official visit was arranged by Bahrain's Foreign Affairs Ministry, according to the news agency, which "contacted several organisations and international bodies along with friendly countries to secure the release of people detained in Israel."

"The efforts resulted in the approval of the Israeli authorities to hand over detainees to the representatives of the Kingdom of Bahrain," the agency reported, adding that its recently returned citizens "were received by the mission from the Israeli authorities and are safe and in good health."

Israel and Bahrain share no formal relations, although the predominately Shiite Muslim Gulf state does have a small but thriving Jewish population, of which one woman is the country's current ambassador to the United States.
So the Free Gaza people actually accomplished something in advancing the relationship between Israel and an Arab nation.

Of course, this is the last thing they wanted to do!

UPDATE: More from the Gulf News:
The extraordinary development marked the first time that Bahraini activists, three women and two men, were held by the Israeli navy and also the first time that a Bahraini official delegation sets foot in an Israeli airport.