September 11, 2020 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the Kingdom of Bahrain for its momentous decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel – capping years of increasingly public contacts and affirmations of shared interest between the countries’ leaders.
The Bahraini decision, announced by President Trump, follows the historic agreement of August 13 to normalize relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel – an agreement that included Israel’s suspension of plans to annex parts of the West Bank. In 2019, Bahrain hosted the U.S.-sponsored “Peace to Prosperity” workshop to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.
AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, has been traveling to the Gulf region for more than 25 years, advancing mutual understanding and trust. Bahrain welcomed the first AJC delegation in 1995.
“On our many visits to Bahrain, and meetings with Bahraini officials in the United States, we have seen the evolution of its leaders’ deep-seated interest in advancing peace and regional cooperation, culminating in this bold decision to fully embrace Israel,” said AJC CEO David Harris.
“Historically, sustainable Arab-Israel peace agreements have been achieved with active United States leadership. The back-to-back agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain, were achieved with the full engagement of the U.S. Administration,” said Harris. “We thank President Trump and his team who saw these possibilities, and welcome the winds of change in the Middle East that lay the foundation for greater peace, cooperation, and prosperity.”
AJC delegations have regularly met in Manama with the king, foreign minister, other senior government officials, and always spent time with the country’s small, indigenous Jewish community, which dates to the 19th century. AJC Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer Jason Isaacson leads the organization’s outreach efforts in the Arab world – and has participated regularly in regional strategic affairs conferences hosted by Bahrain.
During a visit in March 2009, AJC President Richard J. Sideman presented King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain with AJC’s Leadership for Peace Award at Al Safriya Palace in Manama.
In September 2019, AJC honored Bahrain with its Architect of Peace award. The award was presented in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, in recognition of the vision of King Hamad, the role Bahrain has played in efforts to encourage understanding and interfaith respect and cooperation, and the courage, integrity, and humanity of the island kingdom’s chief diplomat.
Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who served as the country’s foreign minister until earlier this year, received the award on behalf of King Hamad – and spoke to an AJC audience of the benefits of peace and cooperation throughout the region.
“For the 25 years that AJC has been initiating and nurturing relationships across the Arabian Gulf, no government has been more welcoming and forthcoming than that of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” said AJC President Harriet Schleifer, who presented the award to Shaikh Khalid.
More than 40 years ago, “Sadat, a man of war, knew that at the right moment he would go to Israel and talk to the people,” said Shaikh Khalid after receiving the award. To advance peace, “every moment is the right moment.”
“We in Bahrain want to do our part in achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. This is something that can be solved if we want to solve it,” he said.
Houda Ezra Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador posted abroad by an Arab country, who served as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2013, addressed the AJC Global Forum in 2019, sharing her story of Jewish life in the Kingdom of Bahrain
And last month, Shaikh Abdulla bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States, appeared on an AJC Advocacy Anywhere webinar on Iran during the Democratic National Convention.