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Naftali Bennett: Warm welcome for Israeli leader in Bahrain

It is unlikely that Bahrain's interior ministry band has played the Israeli national anthem much before - but they practiced it to perfection.

The song rang out with an honour guard in the courtyard of Al-Qudaibiya Palace - home to the ruling Al-Khalifa monarchy. I watched and then saw smiles swapped in the sunshine between Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad.

This was a scene unthinkable a few years ago. So was Mr Bennett's welcome on Monday night - an Israeli leader and Gulf royalty mingling over a red carpet, feted under airport floodlights.

But already it was starting to feel less remarkable. Normalisation is becoming normal.

Mr Bennett's trip to Bahrain is the second to a Gulf country in as many months. He went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December. Both Arab states have signed trade and defence "framework" agreements with the Israelis. A year and a half has passed since the "Abraham Accords" began, now extending to four Arab countries.

They were brokered by US President Donald Trump and signed in 2020 by then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Bennett, keen to escape his predecessor's shadow, sees his job as moving them from "ceremony to substance".


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