Governments across the region that have pursued stronger ties with Israel have come under pressure amid the Gaza war.
Bahrain has confirmed that it recalled its ambassador from Israel, whose escalating war in Gaza has posed a challenge for regional governments that have pursued closer ties with Israel.
Following an earlier statement from Bahrain’s lower house of parliament, the government confirmed on Thursday that its ambassador was returning and that Israel’s ambassador in Manama had left “a while ago”.
The consultative parliamentary body – which has no powers in the area of foreign policy – said earlier in the day that economic relations with Israel had also been severed. But Israel said that ties with Bahrain were “stable”.
The statement from the government in Manama made no mention of cutting economic relations, although it did say that flights between the two countries were temporarily suspended.
The decision follows weeks of protests across the Middle East, where Israel’s bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip has put warming relations with countries like Bahrain under pressure. Jordan also recalled its ambassador to Israel earlier this week.
Over the last several years, states such as Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates have moved to normalise ties and increase economic and military cooperation with Israel.
Those agreements, known as the Abraham Accords, have been strongly promoted by the United States, which has framed them as steps towards a more peaceful Middle East.
Critics say they allow Israel to benefit from greater cooperation without addressing its decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories and ignore public opinion by forging agreements with autocratic governments.
Washington also removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of “terrorism” after the normalisation of ties, offering a lifeline to the country’s military government at a time when it was cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrations and fighting runaway inflation.
The contrast between public opinion and the desire of governments to benefit from greater ties with Israel has become more stark over the last several weeks, as protesters take to the streets across the Middle East in solidarity with the Palestinians.
In Bahrain, where protests are rarely tolerated, demonstrators marched to the Israeli embassy and activists called for a reversal of the normalisation agreement.
The war in Gaza has also set back progress towards a possible normalisation deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“I think this dynamic of normalisation will likely slow down or come to a halt,” Steven Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Associated Press last month.
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