Bahrain dismisses minister for refusing to shake Israeli envoy’s hand

Manama: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa dismissed Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, head of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities against the background of her refusal to shake hands with Israel’s ambassador in Manama, Eitan Naeh.

On June 16, the US ambassador to Bahrain, Stephen Bundy, held a special funeral for his father’s death, and some ambassadors and officials, including Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed, and the Israeli ambassador called for him.

As per media reports, when one of the attendees introduced the personalities to the handshake, the Sheikha refused to shake hands with the Israeli ambassador, withdrew her hand, and left the American ambassador’s house, and asked not to publish any picture of her at the funeral.

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Days later, King Hamad bin Isa announced that Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa had been appointed as the new president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities. 

On Friday; July 22, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa took to Twitter and wrote, “From the heart a thousand thanks for every message I received, only love protects and strengthens us.”

The matter went beyond Bahrain’s borders, as Palestinian factions welcomed the Bahraini minister’s position. Hamas praised this position, stressing that it “is a true expression of the genuine Bahraini people’s positions in support of the Palestinian right and rejecting the integration of the occupation in the region.”

The media spokesman for the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, Tariq Salmi, praised the position of the Bahraini minister, adding, “We express our solidarity with the minister, who took a practical, bold and decisive stance in rejecting normalization, not caring about the consequences, thus embodying the true will of the free men and women of our nation.”

The pioneers of social media platforms expressed their solidarity with the Bahraini official, and activists launched the hashtag “#مي_آل_خليفة” to express their gratitude and thanks for her refusal to normalize.

Sheikha Mai has been performing official duties for over 20 years. She previously held the position of Bahrain’s Minister of Information, the first woman to hold that position. She also held the position of Bahrain’s Minister of Culture and in 2014 was named the sixth most powerful Arab woman in a list compiled by Forbes Middle East magazine.

Bahrain-Israel ties

Bahrain and Israel formally normalized relations in 2020 as part of the Ibrahim Accords, which also saw the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.

The Bahraini foreign minister also participated in the Negev Summit organized by Lapid earlier this year. The Gulf country will also be seen as part of a potential regional security alliance, which US President Joe Biden has been pressing during his recent trip to the Middle East, which included visits to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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