For decades, politicians have sought long-lasting peace in the Middle East. For decades, various approaches to solving the Middle East conflict have not created the desired changes.
This changed in June 2019 when the White House held the Peace to Prosperity Workshop in Bahrain and launched what would ultimately become the economic portion of the administration’s Middle East Plan. Fast-forward to, Sunday December 4th, 2022, two and a half years later, when Israel’s President visited the Kingdom of Bahrain for the first time and after decades of failed attempts, normalization across the region is underway. It was a historic moment in the Israel-Bahrain relationship, and I was honored to be invited to participate with President Isaac Herzog’s delegation.
Bahrain’s economy is growing rapidly and presents significant opportunities for Israeli companies. From the moment we landed, we were greeted warmly. Our first meeting was with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at Al-Qudaibiya Palace in Manama. One of the most moving moments from our visit was when we arrived at the palace and the Bahrain Police band played the Hatikvah, our national anthem. It was a moment that I will never forget: our President, his wife, the King of Bahrain and HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister, standing together as Hatikvah was played. While this is not the first time that Hatikvah has been played at the palace, it was the first time a president of the State of Israel visited the Kingdom.
Meeting at the palace, President Herzog presented the King with a silver mezuzah (a parchment inscribed with religious texts and affixed in a case to the doorpost). The design of the mezuzah was inspired by Torah scroll crowns, symbolizing God’s coronation as king and is traditionally given as a symbol of goodwill. During the meeting, the two discussed common interest and shared economic opportunities. Throughout the trip, the contingency met with business leaders and Bahrain’s Economic Development Board to discuss potential collaboration. The excitement was palpable with business leaders from both countries recognizing the immense potential for both of our economies and for the entire region. Furthermore, Bahrain’s close economic relationship with Saudi Arabia. For Israeli companies looking to open an office in Bahrain, it serves as an entry to the Saudi Arabian market.
At Start-Up Nation Central we serve as a bridge between business communities and believe that innovation and economic collaboration propels deeper regional partnerships. Our team has been working closely with H.E. Khaled Al Jalahma, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the State of Israel, on several initiatives. Just a few months back, we introduced 15 leading Israeli start-ups to significant business opportunities in Bahrain, including the potential for Israeli companies to set up regional R&D hubs in Bahrain. Bahrain offers low operating costs as well as significant labor subsidies that can benefit Israeli start-ups and provide a response to tech employment shortages in Israel. In return, Israeli startups provide technological advancements to Bahrain, positively impacting the economy and creating much- needed jobs. SNC continues to work on a range of programs with Bahrain connecting our tech ecosystems to generate opportunities for our countries and our region more broadly.
Departing Bahrain this morning, I recalled the Peace to Prosperity Workshop held in Bahrain two and a half years back and reflected on how far our nations have come. The conference took place 15 months before the signing of the Abraham Accords and since then we have benefited from fruitful collaboration – and we are still just at the beginning of our journey. As we integrate our ecosystems, our nations will forge a long-term relationship of mutual benefit.
Watching our President and the King of Bahrain talk about areas of mutual I was struck by the leaders’ camaraderie and am leaving Bahrain excited about the shared future that awaits us.
This article was originally published in USA Today.