Furious MPs yesterday slammed the door on any political or economic relations with Israel.
There were angry outbursts in Parliament, despite assurances by Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa that there was no such move.
“We have no plans to forge relations with Israel, whether financially, politically or diplomatically,” he said at parliament’s weekly meeting at the National Assembly Complex.
“I have already met parliamentary bloc presidents two nights ago and explained everything to them and that is we have nothing to hide.
“There are no hidden articles in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US and certainly there are no articles related to Israel.”
Shaikh Khalid was summoned to parliament after 15 MPs signed a demand that the government explain the closure of the Israeli Boycott Office.
MP Shaikh Mohammed Khalid Mohammed, who is a part of Al Menbar Bloc, stood up during last week’s parliament meeting, shouting that the government had “betrayed” the people of Bahrain.
Another bloc member Hassan Bukhammas shouted “death to America and Israel” at yesterday’s meeting.
All the MPs present voted in favour of a demand that the government draft a law banning Bahrain from dealing and co-operating with Israel.
The proposal was submitted by Al Menbar Bloc and signed by 22 members.
Four recommendations agreed by MPs will be also attached to the proposal, which will now go to the Cabinet.
These include the reactivation of the 1963 law against normalisation of relations with Israel and the re-opening of the boycott office.
MPs also want a rider obliging Bahrain to respect Arab and GCC agreements in relation to Israel and a clause that the government must take into account MPs recommendations when drafting details of the proposed law.
MP Yousif Al Hermi vowed to resign if Bahrain normalised relationships with Israel.
But Shaikh Khalid said the closure of the boycott office was key to securing the FTA.
“The issue about the office’s role was raised by the US Congress (after the FTA had been negotiated) and we had to act accordingly, or else the government would lose the agreement,” he said.
“The boycott will continue with or without the office, through the sincerity and devotion of the people.”
Shaikh Khalid highlighted the importance of the FTA to the people of Bahrain.
“This agreement will create job opportunities and if the (boycott) office is a hurdle then it should go, because the interest of the people, who are looking for a decent living, comes first,” he said.
Shaikh Khalid assured MPs that Bahrain would work in line with decisions made by Arab and GCC countries.
“The government may consider normalisation of relationships when true peace is seen and when Arab and GCC states agree it is time,” he said.
“I have heard people accusing the Bahraini government of being traitors and this is something we don’t accept, because we are sincere as anyone here.”
Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa said Bahrain aimed to open up world markets, without normalising relations with Israel.
“The world is changing and we need to compete. This will not be possible, if we don’t stick to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, which we are one of the founding nations of,” he said.
“On the FTA, the (boycott) office issue came later, but in the end the consumer has the right to choose what product he wants to buy, according to the WTO.”
“We trust people will take the right decision.”
Services committee chairman and Al Menbar vice-president Dr Ali Ahmed said that the proposed law would ban Bahrain from signing any agreement or protocol with Israel.
“This includes financial, commercial, diplomatic and formal and informal communication,” he said.
Dr Ahmed said opening relations with Israel would be to “invite evil”.
“We have lived with Jews for centuries as brothers, under equal rights, and until today many are still living amongst us, but not Zionists,” said Dr Ahmed.
“The foreign invasion of our region early in the last century has planted the Zionist body within us, allowing them to separate us from our brothers in Palestine,” he said.
“The Zionists are even stealing our religious sites and killing our brothers and I don’t know why our country wants to normalise ties with them.”
Dr Ahmed said that Al Menbar would continue working with other blocs and political societies and would continue organising events against normalisation of relations with Israel.
Legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Shaikh Abdulla Al A’ali said Bahrain was dealing with its people in the most transparent way possible.
“The image is clear and everyone sees that Bahrain is running with other Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel,” he said.
“Bahrain is doing it in a transparent way, unlike other countries who are still doing it in the dark.
“Whether in the light or dark, it is obvious that Arab and GCC countries will soon normalise ties with Israel.”
Shaikh Al A’ali said that Hizbollah in Lebanon had won back some of the lost Arab dignity through its sacrifices and fight for justice.
“The problem is that everyone is looking after their own interests and will do whatever possible to get personal gains and benefits,” he said.
Shaikh Al A’ali said Palestinian oranges imported to Bahrain were travelling first through Israel, then Jordan. “A large sum of the money paid for the oranges goes to Israel, because it is distributing and shipping them, which means that we are supporting Israel without knowing it,” he said.
“We will stop acquiring those oranges, because we have the will to do so, but the Bahraini government can’t because it has entered into a maze it can’t get out of.”
Parliament vice-chairman Abdulhadi Marhoon, who chaired yesterday’s session, said even if the 22 Arab leaders decided to normalise relations with Israel, the people would not.
“It is up to them, but we will keep our stand with what is right and just, until the end,” he said.
“We will live to spread hatred for Israel amongst our children and will continue to do so, because we will never forget the sorrow and sadness Israelis have spread over the past decades.”
MP Abbas Hassan said MPs were all talk and no fight. “We condemn, offer condolences and write letters, but did we liberate Palestine? ” he declared.
“Is an MP amongst you here willing to hold a gun and fight? I don’t think so.
“Shouting and shouting, has it got us anywhere?”
MP Shaikh Jassim Al Saeedi demanded that Mr Hassan apologise, but he would not.
Mohammed Al-A’ali :: GDN ::