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Israel cabinet minister invited to High-tech conference in Bahrain

Israel in diplomatic push for Gulf ties

BAYT UMMAR: Israeli police investigate in a cordoned area around a damaged car at the scene of an attack where a Palestinian man rammed a vehicle into three Israeli soldiers yesterday. —A

JERUSALEM: An Israeli cabinet minister said yesterday he had been invited to attend a conference next year in Bahrain, in what he described as part of Israel’s emerging relations with Arab and Muslim countries that do not formally recognize it. Israel’s diplomatic push in the Gulf, where it sees Arab states as its natural allies against regional powerhouse Iran, has become increasingly public after years of covert contacts.

Shared worries about Iran or needs in terms of security, agriculture and water have thawed hostility toward Israel among some Arab governments. After a surprise trip to Oman last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hosted a first visit by Chadian President Idriss Deby. “I myself received a personal invitation to Bahrain,” Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said in a radio interview.

Cohen told Army Radio the invitation was to a conference in the first quarter of 2019 “in the realm of technology and high-tech, in which the State of Israel is certainly a leader”. He did not say whether he planned to attend. Asked to elaborate, an Israeli official briefed on Cohen’s affairs said the event to which he had been invited was the Startup Nations Ministerial conference on April 15, a forum for public policymakers to discuss how to promote entrepreneurs. The official, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter, said the invitation originated with the Manama government and was relayed to Israel by Switzerland.

Officials in Manama did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Switzerland’s ambassador to Israel, Jean-Daniel Ruch, said in an emailed statement that his embassy had no knowledge of any such invitation. Bahrain, where a Saudi-backed Sunni Muslim ruling family faces a Shia-led opposition, is one of several flashpoints in a regional tussle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Manama is a close ally of the Saudis and Emiratis, Gulf forces that Israel has described as potential partners against its arch-foe Iran.

Palestinian shot dead
In another development, a Palestinian man rammed his car into three Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank on Monday before being shot dead by another soldier, the army and Palestinian medics said. The Palestinian was pronounced dead by medics at the site, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. The soldiers were lightly wounded and evacuated in stable conditions from the scene north of Hebron, according to the Israeli army.

A Red Crescent spokesman said that Israeli soldiers took the body of the Palestinian, whose name has yet to be released, from their ambulance to an Israeli army vehicle. According to the army, the wounded soldiers had been “performing engineering work on a route between Beit Ummar and Al Arroub” in the southern West Bank. A “soldier on patrol fired towards the terrorist and neutralized him,” the army said in a statement. A wave of attacks against Israelis by lone-wolf Palestinian assailants erupted in 2015 – including stabbings and the use of cars to ram people – but such acts have since become sporadic.- Agencies

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