What Happened: Representatives of Israeli and Gulf Arab businesses have been openly mingling and networking at the U.S.-backed "Peace to Prosperity" conference in Bahrain on Middle East peace, which continued June 26 for its second day. Israel's largest newspaper, Israel Hayom, dubbed Bahrain the "island of hope." Haaretz correspondents were given a tour of Manama's only prominent synagogue, and correspondents from The Times of Israel have noted that they were given the status of "delegates" thanks to their connection to Israel, something that surprised them — and something not extended to Arab colleagues from countries like Jordan and Egypt.
Why It Matters: While the conference will struggle to establish a tangible and practical peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, it is putting on display softening attitudes toward Israel among Arab Gulf states. Common political aims regarding Iran and the waning pertinence of the Palestinian plight are driving this dynamic. Of course, fostering economic ties between Israeli and Gulf Arab companies is one thing and fostering political connections between their governments is another, but more of the former makes more of the latter likely in the coming years.
Background/Context: Israeli journalists haven't been officially invited to Bahrain in 25 years; their presence in Manama testifies to shifting attitudes of elites in Arab Gulf states regarding the utility and pragmatism of ties with Israel. The conference intends to establish a $50 billion fund mostly drawn from Arab Gulf state money that will ease the various economic crises deepening in the Palestinian territories, and in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, countries that have the largest Palestinian communities.