September 24, 2019

AJC Honors Bahrain with ‘Architect of Peace’ Award

September 24, 2019 – New York

American Jewish Committee (AJC), the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, honored Bahrain with its Architect of Peace award.

“For the 25 years that AJC has been initiating and nurturing relationships across the Arabian Gulf, no government has been more open and welcoming and forthcoming than that of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” said AJC President Harriet Schleifer, who presented the award to Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The award was presented in recognition of the vision of King Hamad, the role Bahrain has played in efforts to encourage understanding and interfaith respect and cooperation, and the courage, integrity, and humanity of the island kingdom’s chief diplomat.

Foreign Minister Al Khalifa, in New York to attend the opening of the UN General Assembly, said, “I am honored and humbled to receive this award on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain. We in Bahrain want to do our part in achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. This is something that can be solved if we want to solve it.”

Following the award presentation, Al Khalifa, who has served as foreign minister since 2005, and Jason Isaacson, AJC’s Chief Policy and Public Affairs Officer, engaged in a conversation on regional issues of shared concern, including the Iranian threat, the prospects for the peace process, and U.S.-Bahrain relations.

“You cannot trust them anymore,” after the attack on a Saudi oil facility, said the foreign minister about Iran. “The theo-fascist regime in Tehran is gradually increasing its threats to destabilize us.” In 1981, two years after the Islamic revolution, Tehran declared Bahrain an Iranian province.

The foreign minister recalled that Ayatollah Khomeini, soon after taking power, vowed to export the Islamic revolution across the region, and around the world. “It was the most disrespectful thing he did – to the revolution, to the Iranian people.”

Today, the Iranians are fighting against Arabs through proxies – Hezbollah, Houthis, Hamas, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), which Al Khalifa called “the mother of them all.”

On the peace process, the foreign minister said it is important to learn the lessons of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and late Jordanian King Hussein, both of whom negotiated and signed peace treaties with Israel.

Al Khalifa expressed frustration with Palestinian leadership. “Sadat achieved a very successful peace agreement with Israel. It gave an opportunity for Yasser Arafat for five years of self-rule, but Arafat chose to not take it, to instead seek support from Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qadhafi,” he said.

And he bemoaned the current Palestinian leadership’s refusal to attend the Peace to Prosperity workshop in Manama. When the U.S. asked Bahrain to host the workshop, “we did not hesitate.”

Though some in the Arab world criticized Bahrain for “normalizing before peace,” by inviting Israeli press to come to Bahrain for the workshop, and interviewing the foreign minister, Al Khalifa said the objective wasn’t “normalization” – noting that Israel’s presence in the region is indisputable – but communication to help resolve regional problems, including the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

“Nobody should shy away from talking to the media. Through the Israeli media we are talking to the Israeli people,” he said. “Trust can be built.”

More than 40 years ago, “Sadat, a man of war, knew that at the right moment he would go to Israel and talk to the people,” he said. To advance peace, “every moment is the right moment.”

The foreign minister also praised the longstanding relationship between Bahrain and the United States. “Today relations are stronger than ever and closer than ever,” he said. “The U.S. government has supported us in every possible way on the threats coming from Iran.”

Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke following the conversation with the Bahraini minister, agreed. “It is impossible for the U.S. to have a better partner in the cause of peace than Shaikh Khalid,” said Hook. “Because of leaders like him I am more confident we are going to succeed.”

Isaacson has spearheaded AJC’s relations with the Arab world over the past three decades. AJC delegations regularly visit Bahrain, last time in December 2018, when they met – among other officials, business leaders and civil society figures – with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Foreign Minister Al Khalifa, and Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.