MANAMA, Bahrain - Israel has been operating a secret embassy in Bahrain for more than 11 years, according to a report published by news portal Axios on Wednesday.
It appears the Jewish state set up the operation in collaboration with the Bahrain government, and although it had diplomatic status covertly, it was made to appear that it was a corporate, commercial enterprise established to provide, commercial, marketing and investment services.
Labelled 'The Center for International Development,' the corporate entity had listings in directories and was also included on LinkedIn.
According to the Axios report, shareholders include Brett Jonathan Miller, a South African who is the Israeli consul general in Mumbai, and Ido Moed, a Belgian who is the the Israeli Foreign Ministry's cyber coordinator. The company's directors include Ilan Fluss, a British national who is the Israeli Foreign Ministry's deputy director general for the economy.
"Israel has been conducting undercover diplomacy in Bahrain for more than a decade through a front company listed as a commercial consulting firm," the Axios report published on Wednesday said.
The report elaborated:
- The existence of the secret diplomatic office remained under an Israeli government gag order for 11 years. A short report about it appeared on Israel's Channel 11 news last week.
- Today, I'm reporting many more details based on conversations with Israeli and Bahraini sources, as well as Bahraini Commerce Ministry records.
"Negotiations over a potential secret diplomatic mission started in 2007-2008 through a series of secret meetings between Israel's then-foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and her Bahraini counterpart, Khaled Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa," said the Axios report.
"Their close relationship, along with a decision by regional rival Qatar to shut down Israel's diplomatic mission in Doha, convinced the Bahrainis to approve the opening of a secret Israeli mission in Manama, Israeli officials say."
"On July 13, 2009, a company named "The Center for International Development" was registered in Bahrain. It was a front, providing cover for Israeli diplomacy," Axios said.
"According to Bahraini public records, the company offered marketing, commercial promotion and investment services."
"The front company changed its name in 2013. We can't disclose the current name for security reasons," said Axios.
"According to the company's website, it provides consultancy services to Western companies interested in non-oil investments in the Gulf - mainly in the fields of medical technology, renewable energy, food security and IT."
"The front company was in fact hiring a very specific type of employee: Israeli diplomats with dual nationality," the report said.
"In 2018, the company appointed a new CEO, an American national whose name can't be revealed. He was recently replaced by another Israeli diplomat with dual nationality."
"The Israeli diplomats all had cover stories, backed up by unconvincing LinkedIn profiles," said Axios.
"Behind the scenes, a small group of Bahraini officials was aware of the secret mission."
"Several times over the last decade, concerns about possible leaks led to urgent damage control consultations between the countries to make sure the secret would remain secret," Axios reported.
"Israeli officials tell me the secret mission really did promote hundreds of business deals struck by Israeli companies in Bahrain. It also served as a secret communications channel for the Israeli government."
"On Sunday in Manama, minutes after the signing of a joint communique on establishing diplomatic relations, an Israeli official handed the Bahraini Foreign Minister a note with a request to open a genuine embassy in Manama," the Axios report said.
(Pictured: Israeli and U.S. officials including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin arriving Sunday on the first-ever direct commercial flight from Israel to Bahrain for the first official talks between the Israeli and Bahraini governments. Credit: U.S. Embassy in Israel).