At a stormy session held last Tuesday, Bahrain's parliament called upon the Gulf Arab emirate's government to cease all contact with Israel and to refrain from attending the upcoming Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which it labeled "a waste of time".
"Most of the parliament is in favor of cutting off any contact with Israel," Abd-Ali Muhammad Hassan, a member of Bahrain's Chamber of Deputies, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from Manama. "We are not going to recognize Israel and have any dealings with them until the rights of the Palestinians are achieved," he said.
At least one of Hassan's parliamentary colleagues, Jalal Fairooz, already appears to be implementing the decision.
Contacted by the Post, Fairooz said that he refused to be interviewed by a newspaper published in Israel. "I am not willing to speak to a newspaper that is published in the occupied territories," he said, after which he hung up.
Hassan further noted that the parliament had expressed its dismay that the Bahraini government had closed its Office for the Boycott of Israel last year, whose task had been to ensure compliance with the terms of the Arab League economic embargo against the Jewish state.
Criticizing the decision, Hassan said that he and his colleagues had "asked the government to re-open that office and to avoid any other dealings with Israel."
Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who attended the session, defended the move, noting that the closing of the office was mandated by the US-Bahrain free-trade agreement, which he says has proven beneficial to the emirate's economy. But he sought to reassure the deputies that the boycott of Israel was still in place, even after the closure of the office.
"People are still boycotting [Israel] with or without the office," Khalifa said, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News, adding, "Bahrain didn't normalize relations with Israel, which is still our enemy."
Nonetheless, Khalifa came under harsh criticism from the deputies for an unofficial tete-a-tete he held with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at the United Nations earlier this fall.
Islamist deputy Nasser al Fadhala said that Khalifa should ritually wash his hands six times with water and then cleanse them with sand for having shaken Livni's hand.