A Bahraini delegation has arrived in Israel with a message from the country’s king, in the latest instance of warming ties between the two sides, The Times of Israel reports.
The Israeli paper said Sunday that 24 members of the “This is Bahrain” group, which professes campaigning for “religious freedom,” traveled to Israel this week for a four-day visit.
“The king sent us with a message of peace to the whole world,” a member on the group was quoted as saying about the visit.
In September, Israeli media said Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah had called at an event hosted by pro-Israeli group Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles for an end to the Arab boycott of Israel, and the establishment of diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.
Israeli tourists and businessmen have been traveling to Bahrain in recent years. The Israeli daily cited a prominent rabbi, who had met with the king, as saying that the monarch intended to allow citizens from his kingdom to visit Israel freely.
Last year, the tiny kingdom became the only Persian Gulf country, which publicly mourned the death of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Also in 2016, Bahraini officials raised eyebrows by hosting and participating in the Israeli Hanukkah celebration.
Leaks obtained by WikiLeaks also showed that senior officials from Israel and Bahrain had spoken in recent years. They cited a 2007 meeting between then Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa in New York.
In 2005, the Bahraini king boasted to an American official that his state had contacts with Israel “at the intelligence/security level,” WikiLeaks’ findings also showed.
Arab states have been traditionally depicting themselves as Israel’s enemies and supporters of the Palestinian cause against Tel Aviv’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that his regime has ties with the Arab world, and that the relations are improving.
In historical comments, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz acknowledged last month that Tel Aviv had had covert contacts with Saudi Arabia.
Yaacov Nagel, who stepped down as Netanyahu’s internal security advisor earlier this year, also said last month that Saudi Arabia was ready to sacrifice Palestinians and their demands for closer ties with Israel.
And on Friday, Reuters cited Palestinian officials as expressing worries that Saudi Arabia was acting behind the scenes to advance a United States “grand bargain” over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that heavily favored Israel.