An Israeli delegation that was due to attend a conference in Bahrain this week has pulled out due to alleged security concerns, the organizers said on Sunday, after wide Muslim and Arab outrage over the Israeli participation in the event held in Manama.
A spokeswoman for Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said his planned visit to Bahrain this week had been “delayed because of political issues”. Another Israeli cabinet minister said this referred to coalition talks after Israeli election last week.
Israel and the governments of the Gulf Arab countries are in the midst of a diplomatic push aimed at normalizing ties with Tel Aviv in a bid to forge an alliance against Iran. Their efforts have become increasingly public after years of mostly covert contact due to strong opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
The group of around 30 Israeli business executives and government officials was scheduled to participate in a congress organized by the US-based Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) in Bahrain on April 15-18.
This prompted an outcry in Bahrain, with parliament joining calls on social media for the visit to be canceled and some minor street protests held in Manama.
“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” Jonathan Ortmans, GEN president, said in a statement.
A source close to the matter told Reuters that three Israeli speakers had canceled because they were unable to obtain visas while the rest of the delegation had “decided not to go.”