Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa appears to have made it his mission to say anything to hurt Iran while whitewashing Bahrain’s internal problems.

It was something unimaginable just a few years ago: Arab leaders supporting Israel. But that’s exactly what’s happening now and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa embodies this change of heart. 

After reports emerged this week that Israeli airstrikes have hit Iran-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Khalifa took to Twitter to say the Jewish state was only defending itself. 

In an interesting twist of words, he wrote in Arabic: “Iran is the one who has declared a war on us…” without explaining what he meant by “us” in the Israeli context. 

His comments are at odds with the warnings of Lebanese and Iraqi officials who say Israeli actions threaten to escalate tensions with Muslim countries. 

Bahrain has been cosying up to Israel for the past four years and Khalifa has been at the centre of that shift - Bahrain is part of the Arab League which enforced an economic boycott of Israel between 1960s and 1990s. 

In September 2016, Khalifa shocked many people in the Arab world when he offered condolences over the demise of former Israeli president Shimon Peres calling him a “man of war and a man of elusive peace in the Middle East”. 

Up until then, Arab diplomats had refrained from commenting on Israeli leaders even though they held clandestine meetings with Israeli officials from time to time. 

A series of developments in recent years made it obvious that Bahrain has significantly changed in its diplomatic posture towards Israel. 

In September 2017, reports emerged that Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa opposed Arab boycott of Israel and was in favour of letting Bahraini people visit Israel even though the two countries have no formal diplomatic relations. 

Since then, low-ranking Israeli officials have visited Bahrain and Bahrain has sent its religious scholars and a cycling team to the Jewish state. 

Bahrain, which has long suppressed its Shia-majority population, had already tried to project a moderate image of itself by appointing a Jewish man, Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, as Ambassador to the US in 2008. 

The tiny archipelago of one million people has around three dozen Jews and no Arab state has appointed a Jewish diplomat other than Bahrain. 

In June this year, Khalifa angered supporters of the Palestinian cause when he told the Times of Israel that Bahrain believes in Israel’s right to exist. 

A month later he met his Israeli counterpart in Washington in what was seen as the first public meeting between top officials of the two countries. 

Khalifa has also repeatedly condemned Iran and supported Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets. 

But Bahrain’s animosity towards Iran has roots in its domestic oppression of the Shia Muslims who make up more than 70 percent of the population. It accuses Iran of backing Shia groups in Bahrain. 

For years Bahrain’s Sunni rulers have denied rights and political freedom to a large section of the public. 

Bahrain has ratcheted up criticism of Iran, especially after the 2011 protests when millions of people took to the streets in Manama demanding more rights. 

Human rights organisations say Bahraini authorities have come to rely on the revocation of nationality as a preferred tool of political repression. 

Since 2012, Bahrain has stripped 990 people of their nationality, making them stateless and leaving them without many rights such as getting treatment at public hospitals

Source: TRT World