Bahraini Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani announced Thursday that his country’s imports from Israel will not be subject to distinctions between products made within Israel and those from settlements in occupied territory, drawing a rebuke from the Palestinians.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates established official relations with Israel on September 15th, in agreements brokered by the United States.
The two Gulf States said at the time that those agreements became possible after Israel agreed to freeze the plan to annex West Bank settlements.
Most countries in the world consider the settlements illegal.
The Bahraini Minister expressed his country's openness to importing settlement products.
Zayani said Bahrain would treat Israeli products as Israeli products, regardless of their source. “We will treat Israeli products as Israeli products. So we have no issue with labeling or origin,” he told Reuters during a visit to Israel.
Under European Union guidelines, settlement products should be clearly labeled as such when exported to EU member countries. The Trump administration last month removed US customs distinctions between goods made within Israel and in settlements.
Zayani’s remarks were condemned by Wasel Abu Youssef of the Palestine Liberation Organization as “contradicting international and UN resolutions”.
Abu Youssef urged Arab countries not to import products even from inside Israel, in order to prevent it “stretching into Arab markets to strengthen its economy”.
Palestinians now fear that the rapprochement of relations between Gulf countries and Israel will seriously harm their aspirations for the establishment of their independent state.
It is not clear until now the position of the rest of the Gulf countries on importing settlements.
But an Israeli winery that uses grapes grown on the occupied Golan Heights said in September that its labels would be sold in the UAE.
Israel expects trade with Bahrain worth around $220 million in 2021, not including possible defense and tourism deals.
Zayani said Bahraini carrier Gulf Air was tentatively scheduled to begin flights to Tel Aviv on Jan. 7, with shipping to follow.
“We are fascinated by how integrated IT and innovation sector in Israel has been embedded in every facet of life,” he said.
He played down speculation in Israel that its citizens visiting Bahrain could be at risk of reprisals for the assassination last Friday of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, which Tehran blamed on Israeli agents.
“We don’t see any threats, and therefore we don’t see any requirement for additional security or special treatment for Israelis,” he said.