An Israeli delegation has reportedly participated in a business conference in Bahrain despite statements about the cancellation of the controversial visit to the Persian Gulf country.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Channel 13 on Wednesday that an Israeli foreign ministry delegation had arrived at the 11th Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Manama as planned and also held a series of meetings on the sidelines of the event.
A group of around 30 Israeli business executives and officials, including Economy Minister Eli Cohen, was scheduled to attend the summit on April 15-18.
At least three Israelis were expected to speak at the conference, which was organized by the US-based Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).
Earlier this week, however, GEN founder and president Jonathan Ortmans told Reuters that the Israelis had decided not to attend, citing “security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption” for other participants.
Additionally, a spokeswoman for Cohen claimed that his planned visit to Bahrain had been “delayed because of political issues.”
The invitation of the Israeli delegation to Manama triggered a backlash among Bahraini lawmakers, who stressed their support for the Palestinian cause and voiced their opposition to the hosting of Israel’s representatives in their country.
Separately, Bahrain’s most prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim denounced the Manama regime’s decision to host the Israelis as a step on the path to “humiliation and capitulation” to the foremost enemy of the Muslim world.
Israel has full diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but latest reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Saudi Arabia and its allies, one of them being Bahrain.
Last year, there were reports suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might visit Bahrain. Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa denied an imminent visit by Netanyahu but said he would not hesitate to announce it if one was planned.
Inside Bahrain, however, people are largely against Manama’s potential normalization of ties with Tel Aviv and have held anti-Israeli protests across the kingdom over the past years.