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Cablegate: Bahrain Selects Jewish Woman As Its Next

VZCZCXRO2992
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHMK #0284/01 1221033
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 011033Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7833
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 000284

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/B AND NEA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2018
TAGS: PREL PINR BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAIN SELECTS JEWISH WOMAN AS ITS NEXT
AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES

Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Bahrain's next Ambassador to the United States will be Mrs. Houda Nonoo (pronounced, "NEW-new"). Mrs. Nonoo is from a prominent Bahraini Jewish family. She currently serves as a member of the Shura Council, the appointed upper house of Parliament. She is also a co-founder and Secretary General of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, an NGO supportive of the government. The appointment has been reported in the Bahraini, Israeli, and pan-Arab press. The Foreign Minister has said he would like Mrs. Nonoo to take up her duties in July. ---------------------- Biographic Information ----------------------

2.(U) The Nonoo family migrated to Bahrain from Iraq in the 1880s. They have for generations had one of the leading money exchange businesses in Bahrain. Among other activities, they are the local agent for Western Union. Houda Ezra Nonoo was born in Manama in the mid-1960's. Following the Sephardic Jewish tradition, she received her basic education at an Ashkenazic boarding school in the UK. She completed both "O" levels and "A" levels in the UK, where she also obtained a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and Business Administration. She earned a Master's degree in Business Administration from International University in Watford in 1987.

3.(U) Ms. Nonoo met and married her husband, Salman Idafar, while studying in the UK. She returned to Bahrain to manage one of the many Nonoo family businesses, Gulf Computer Services. In 2002, following the accession of King Hamad and the launch of his democratic reforms, she was part of a group that founded the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society. (Mrs. Nonoo currently serves as its Secretary General.) King Hamad appointed Mrs. Nonoo to the Shura Council on December 5, 2006. Ms. Nonoo and her husband have two sons: Menashe, aged 17, and Ezra, aged 15.

----------------------------------- An Appointment from Out of the Blue -----------------------------------

4.(C) We learned of this appointment when King Hamad discussed it briefly with the Secretary during her visit for the GCC Plus Two Ministerial in Bahrain on April 21. That same evening, Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa telephoned Mrs. Nonoo to tell her she had been chosen as Bahrain's next Ambassador to the U.S. It was the first she had ever heard of the idea. Once she found her voice, she demurred and asked for some time to think about it. "There's nothing to think about," Sheikh Khalid replied. "The King has made his decision." As if to cement the deal, Bahrain's news dailies reported the appointment several days later.

-------------------------------------------- A Friend to the U.S.; New to Diplomatic Work --------------------------------------------

5.(C) Houda is well-known to the Embassy and a good friend of the United States. She is a strong supporter of human rights and political liberalization and has hosted the American Jewish Committee during their regular visits to Bahrain.

6.(C) The Ambassador and DCM hosted Mrs. Nonoo for lunch on April 28. She was still coming to terms with the implications of the appointment for her family and was eager to learn more about what was expected of a chief of mission in Washington. She also shared her worry that any public missteps she makes, especially on Arab-Israeli issues, might focus unsympathetic attention on the small Bahraini Jewish community which, for decades, has been non-controversial here. (Note: There are about 40 Bahraini Jews from five families permanently resident here. End note.)

7.(C) We expect that Mrs. Nonoo will prove herself an excellent Ambassador. She is bright, genuine, and refreshingly direct. The prospect of becoming a lightning rod for controversy worries her, but she will have the strong support of King Hamad and his Foreign Minister. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: MANAMA 00000284 002 OF 002 XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** ERELI

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