1231 GMT September 19, 2019
“Hosting and greeting the Zionists at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, which is to be held in Bahrain, is a bold step on a dishonorable path; that of humiliation, capitulation and shamelessness,” Sheikh Qassim said in a statement carried by Arabic-language Lua Lua TV network on Tuesday.
Four Israelis are expected to speak at the three-day event due in Manama on April 15-18, Press TV reported.
The top cleric said the Israeli regime tops the list of the Muslim world’s enemies. He added that Manama’s plan to take the Israelis was in line with its attempts to compromise and normalize ties with the enemy, with which Bahrain – like most other Arab countries -- has no open diplomatic contacts.
This is a clear sign of the Manama regime’s disregard for Islam and the will of the nation, said Sheikh Qassim, the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s dissolved opposition bloc the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, who had his citizenship revoked in 2016 as part of the Al Khalifah regime’s suppression campaign against dissidents.
“It is an open confrontation with our nation and a fierce battle against our existence,” he added.
The planned visit has triggered a backlash among Bahraini lawmakers, who have stressed their support for the Palestinian cause and voiced their opposition to the hosting of Israel's represenatives in their country.
Israel has full diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but latest reports suggest the regime is working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with Saudi Arabia and its allies, one of them being Bahrain.
Last year, there were reports suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might visit Bahrain. Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa denied an imminent visit by Netanyahu but said he would not hesitate to announce it if one was planned.
Inside Bahrain, however, the public opinion is largely against Manama’s potential normalization of ties with Israel, which is viewed as a blow to the Palestinian struggle against occupation.
Reports of Manama’s overtures to the regime in Tel Aviv have sparked many protests across the kingdom over the past years.
Israel and several Arab states have had secret contacts for years, but the two sides have stepped up their attempts to bring their clandestine relations out into the open.
In February, a US-organized summit in the Polish capital of Warsaw brought together Netanyahu and representatives from a number of Arab states, including Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Saudi Arabic, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Kuwait, among other participants.
Following the event, Netanyahu said statements by Arab leaders at the so-called Middle East security conference had laid the groundwork for the Arab public to accept normalization with Tel Aviv.