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Netanyahu planning trip to Bahrain 'soon'

Netanyahu planning trip to Bahrain 'soon'
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE on Tuesday said he is planning a trip to Bahrain “soon” in what would be his first visit since the Gulf state committed to normalizing relations with Israel in a U.S.-brokered agreement in September. 

According to Reuters, Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he had received an invitation to visit from Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa.

“We are both excited to bring the fruits of peace to our people and countries in such a short time. That’s why he (al-Khalifa) invited me to come soon for a formal visit in Bahrain and I will do this happily,” Netanyahu said in a statement following a phone call with the crown prince.

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Last week, a group of Bahraini officials made their first visit to Israel, during which Bahrain’s foreign minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani said that the Sep. 15 Abraham Accords deal normalizing relations between the two countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, was “a warm peace that will deliver clear benefits to our peoples.” 

Both countries said during the visit last week that they would open embassies, establish online visa systems and begin weekly flights as part of broadened relations between the nations, according to Reuters. 

Netanyahu’s planned visit comes after multiple reports noted that he had met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday night in what would have been the first known meeting between the two countries’ top leaders.

Israeli media initially reported the meeting and Education Minister Yoav Galant confirmed it in a radio interview. 

However, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said no such meeting occurred. 

The normalization of relations between the Gulf states and Israel has caused criticism from Palestinian groups, who argue that the move undermines an agreement among Arab nations to boycott Israel in solidarity.

While Saudi Arabia’s King Salman remains a supporter of the boycott of Israel, the crown prince reportedly prefers to lessen focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to bring attention to an alliance against Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported.