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Fostering bilateral relations between Bahrain and Israel to ensure regional stability: Exclusive interview

TDT | Manama                                                               

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

P. Unnikrishnan

Israeli Ambassador Discusses Fostering Bilateral Relations with Bahrain while Ensuring Regional Stability: An Exclusive Interview with Eitan Na’eh

In a captivating interview, Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh discusses how his understanding of Bahrain’s sociocultural diversity has influenced his diplomatic priorities. Emphasizing the significance of building relationships with the people rather than just institutions, he highlights the need for increased travel between Bahrain and Israel to promote mutual understanding. On the occasion of Israel celebrating 75 years of independence, Na’eh also delves into the potential collaborations in sectors such as Aggrotech, healthcare, alternative energy, and food tech, envisioning Bahrain as a gateway for exporting Israeli technology.

Q: How has your knowledge and understanding of Bahrain’s sociocultural mosaic influenced your priorities as the Israeli Ambassador?

A: My knowledge about this country was limited when I arrived in Bahrain a year and a half ago. However, over time, I have come to understand and appreciate the rich socio-cultural mosaic of this great nation. Acquiring this knowledge has allowed me to prioritise the initiatives that can be undertaken in Bahrain.

Q: How do you approach diplomacy in Bahrain, and why do you emphasise building relationships with the people rather than just institutions?

A: In my diplomatic endeavours, I have adopted a holistic approach that strongly emphasises building relationships with the people of Bahrain. While political, economic, commercial, and cultural connections are essential, the enduring aspect of people-to-people relations forms the foundation of any diplomatic engagement.

It is crucial to recognise that developing relationships with individuals, rather than just institutions, is critical. Results cannot be achieved overnight; patience is required to witness the positive outcomes that emerge from these connections.

Q: How can promoting mutual understanding and knowledge through increased travel between Bahrain and Israel enhance bilateral relations?

A: Insufficient knowledge about our respective countries significantly contributes to negative perceptions. More Bahrainis must visit Israel to combat this and experience the reality first-hand. Seeing is believing. One must immerse oneself in a country’s culture to understand it comprehensively and philosophically.

Drawing inspiration from the fruitful interactions between Israelis and Indians, I have personally studied Indian philosophy in college, but only after visiting India I learned to fully appreciate its cultural diversity.

Through direct exposure, we can truly grasp the essence of a place. Regrettably, the number of Bahrainis who have visited Israel, and vice versa, remains limited. It is time for both countries to facilitate two-way travel, allowing people to understand and enjoy the relationship.

Whether it’s a long weekend or a week-long trip, experiencing the food, meeting the locals, and witnessing the atmosphere and warmth of the people, will foster stronger connections. At the Embassy, we are actively exploring ways to streamline the visa process, enabling more businesspeople to travel between our nations.

Gulf Air has been instrumental in this regard, offering daily flights. I aim to encourage more Bahrainis to visit Israel, as both countries have unique offerings that can attract and captivate each other. I have been delighted to see many young Bahrainis sharing positive notes after they visit Israel.

Q: In what ways are you engaging with the younger generation to change perceptions and build a strong foundation for the future of Bahrain-Israel relations?

A: Connecting with the younger generation is crucial to build a strong foundation. They possess open and receptive minds, enabling them to understand and appreciate the synergies between our countries.

Many young people who have visited Israel have documented their beautiful moments, immersing themselves in our cultural and scenic beauty. By facilitating interactions between young professionals from Bahrain and Israel, we provide them with a common ground for discussion and learning.

For example, a young doctor or programmer from Bahrain will find much to discuss and learn from their Israeli counterparts and vice versa. We are also in the early stages of discussions with relevant ministries to establish a fellowship program for exchanging students for higher studies, further deepening our connections.

Noteworthy figures such as high dignitaries, NGO members, businesspeople, and young individuals graced our 75th Independence Day celebration. Although space constraints prevented us from inviting many, the perception of Israel has evolved significantly in Bahrain, thanks to the Abraham Accords.

Q: Can you elaborate on the investment opportunities and potential collaborations between Israeli and Bahraini companies in Aggrotech, healthcare, alternative energy, and food tech sectors?

A: We are poised to witness increased investment activity in the coming days. Israeli companies have already signed memorandums of understanding with reputable firms in Bahrain, with endless possibilities spanning Aggrotech, healthcare, and alternative energy.

Food tech is another area of great interest. One of Israel’s most influential healthcare has partnered with one of Bahrain’s largest hospitals. Israel leads the world in wastewater recycling, with a remarkable 90% recycling rate.

In contrast, Spain, the second-highest recycling country, only recycles 20% of its wastewater. Numerous Bahraini businesspeople have expressed their interest in collaborating with Israeli companies.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that substantial results may take several years to materialise. Israel has made significant strides in solar energy, and this is an area where we can forge partnerships with Bahraini companies, for example.

We also have plans to establish a neurology centre in Bahrain using Israeli technology, as both countries face similar challenges related to genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anaemia. Our advanced medical research centre can augment the existing facilities in Bahrain.

While ongoing projects are being discussed, I cannot disclose further details due to their commercial sensitivity.

Q: How do you plan to strengthen bilateral relations between Israel and Bahrain through high-level exchanges and engagement between officials and ministers?

A: We are witnessing an increasingly robust exchange between Israeli officials and Bahraini ministers. The leaders of both countries are actively engaging in discussions. Our President visited Bahrain last year, and the Minister of Tourism will soon visit Bahrain.

Numerous ministers from Israel and Bahrain have seen each other’s countries, and many Bahrainis have travelled to Israel. I frequently meet members of the Royal family, ministers, and other esteemed dignitaries. Our countries have reached a stage where Jerusalem and Manama listen to each other.

Q: Can you provide more details on the support and collaboration between Israel and Bahrain in research and development, particularly in food tech?

A: Recognising that necessity is the mother of invention, our research centres in Israel has developed numerous cutting-edge technologies. We stand ready to set up joint research and development centres in Bahrain. Food tech is an area where we can easily collaborate.

For instance, we have successfully developed and introduced “Redefined meat” and other alternative ways to consume or produce meat with companies like “Elef Farms” or “Beyond meat”. We can now print meat in labs using 3D printers.

Q: How do you address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and what role do ongoing dialogues play in finding a resolution?

A: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a deeply rooted history spanning a century and continues to persist. What is needed is an ongoing dialogue. We are committed to refraining from causing harm unless we have threatened ourselves. We are clear on this point. The loss of innocent lives provokes our reactions. I’m sure we can achieve real peace, if realistic ideas and demands can be made and can be met.

Q: What are your plans for Bahrain-Israel relations, and how do you envision transforming Bahrain into a gateway for exporting Israeli technology?

A: My vision for the future in this respect is that both countries should enjoy the advantage of this location as a gate way between East and West, for exporting and importing Israeli technology, industries, and to trade, in collaboration with Bahrain, thereby creating a mutually beneficial outcome. I also wish us to be able to enhance bilateral relationships by focusing on regional security. The possibilities I envisioned a year and a half ago are now becoming more of a reality.