MANAMA, Bahrain - In what appears to be a significant shift, an Arab leader on the weekend condemned the horrific Hamas-led attacks in Israel on 7 October.
Many in the Arab world have blamed Israel for the attacks, citing the decades-long conflict, and the blockade of the past 16 years. Of those that have been critical, many have become even more angered in relation to Israel's response to the attacks.
While 1,200 Israelis died in the 7 October attacks, more than ten times that number have died as a result of the retaliatory bombardment and ground invasion by the Israeli army.
The Bahrain Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa however on Saturday placed the blame firmly at the feet of Hamas.
He told national leaders, ministers and policymakers from the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia of the Bahrain kingdom's position. "The attacks on October 7 were barbaric, they were horrific. They were indiscriminate. They killed women, children, the elderly, it did not matter," he told the IISS Manama Dialogue, an annual conference which addresses foreign policy challenges for the Middle East.
"They hit civilian institutions and they hit military targets, and on top of that, it seems it's okay now to grab hostages and take them away and speak about it as if it's an act of war. That is something that we condemn," he said.
The crown prince also said "breaking the cycle of violence," could only be achieved by the release of the hostages. Hamas and other groups abducted around 240 people, mostly civilians, but also some soldiers.
He called for the rule of international law to be fully implemented to ensure that the Gazan people have access to humanitarian aid.
Al Khalifa's remarks were even more significant as the kingdom established diplomatic ties, together with the United Arab Emirates in September, 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords.
The Bahraini leader was unequivocal in his view of the aftermath of the current hostilities, saying that elections should be called.
"Let me be extremely clear on what matters to the Kingdom of Bahrain. There must be no forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza, now or ever," he said. "There must be no reoccupation of Gaza. There must be no reduction in Gaza's territory. And on the other side, there must be no terrorism directed from Gaza against the Israeli public. Those are the red lines."
He said that the United States is indispensable in this regard.
To ensure lasting peace, Al Khalifa, according to the Bahrain News Agency, stressed that elections must be delivered to offer the Palestinian people a strong and unified leadership. This process must be led by an interlocutor and partner who can broker an end to violence and deliver the prospect of a viable and independent Palestinian state that will also guarantee security and stability for its neighbour, Israel.
The crown prince said military conflict must not be the final arbiter. He told the conference, diplomacy and the rule of international law must be the principal mechanisms for conflict resolution, noting that if the world does not work across all political lines to make sure that the voice of reason is heard, it risks creating conditions for acts of violence to spread globally.
The IISS Manama Dialogue has been staged each year for the last 19 years by the Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which has offices in London, Washington DC, Manama, Berlin and Singapore.