Relationships are dynamic and organic; they grow and develop; they experience a change in pace and direction. The relationship between Israel and Bahrain is no different. After signing the normalization agreement between the two countries on the White House lawn in September 2020, a slow but steady process of getting to know each other started. A process of letting go of old assumptions and exploring new opportunities and realizing similarities and finding common ground. Now, after more than two years of getting acquainted, Israel and Bahrain have reached a new stage in their relationship and are ready to accelerate their economic ties and widen the collaboration in innovation.
This week, more than 500 Bahraini and Israeli business leaders attended the opening ceremony of “Connect2Innovate,” focused on bringing together the business communities of both countries. Ambassador Steve Bondy, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Bahrain addressed the crowd at the opening ceremony reiterating his support for two the US’ allies growing relationship. The event was co-hosted by our organization, Bahrain’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce, its Economic Development Board, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Embassy in Israel, and Israel’s Embassy in the Kingdom of Bahrain brought together corporations and startups in energy and climate, logistics and supply chains, water, and fintech sectors. In parallel, there were policy workshops sharing best practices and exchanging knowledge around innovation ecosystem building and tech human capital development.
The similarities between our two countries are numerous and complementary. While Israel’s population is five times the size of Bahrain, both are still quite small. And although Israel is not an island like Bahrain, it is an “economic island” due to its geopolitical situation. Although Israel has only recently found large deposits of natural resources, mainly offshore natural gas, while Bahrain has been a natural resources powerhouse for years, both understand that technology and innovation are the future.
Israel discovered large deposits of natural gas only around a decade ago. This lack of natural resources, among other factors, has pushed Israel to develop its technological capabilities. Bahrain, on the other hand, was one of the first countries in the gulf to find natural gas and capitalize on it. Being the first to make use of its resources also made Bahrain one of the first countries to understand that these resources will one day run out and that Bahrain needs to diversify and invest in the economy. Bahrain has been successful in reducing the share of non-renewable energy in its GDP to less than 20% and even more successful in creating hubs of innovation and technology, making it a leading center for fintech activity as just one example.
While Israel has traveled further down the road toward a knowledge-based economy, both countries are heading in the same direction. This synergy creates significant opportunities to work together, share best practices and exchange knowledge. The establishment of official ties between Israel and Bahrain in September 2020 opened a new era for such collaboration and over the past two and a half years this normalization has expanded, providing a foundation for potential partnerships.
The relationship between Israel and Bahrain has evolved from the exploration stage and now we are ready to take-off. Connect2Innovate is not an end or a singular event, it is the beginning of a new phase in Israel and Bahrain’s continued journey together toward a shared future built on innovation and technology. The power of change is in our hands – it is up to us to keep moving forward.
Yariv Becher is Vice President of Innovation Diplomacy at Start-Up Nation Central and a former commercial attaché on behalf of Israel’s Ministry of Economy, helping Israeli technology companies penetrate foreign markets.
*Article first printed in USA Today, March 22, 2023