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Israel And Morocco Deepen Bilateral Relationship Following Recognition Of Western Sahara

Israel-Morocco ties set to strengthen after recognition of Western Sahara sovereignty

The bilateral relationship between Israel and Morocco is expected to significantly deepen in the coming weeks and months following Israel’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, Israeli experts said Thursday.

The countries, which had maintained decades of covert cooperation in the defense and intelligence sphere, formalized relations as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords that saw four Arab countries make peace with Israel.

The Trump administration recognized Western Sahara as Moroccan territory as part of the historic deal, but Jerusalem, concerned over implications such a decision could have for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, held off on a similar move until this week.

Two days after Israel’s announcement, King Mohammed VI on Wednesday invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Morocco, in what would be the highest-level meeting of leaders since the formalization of ties three years ago.

Morocco’s Foreign Ministry, which first broke the news of the king’s very public invitation to Netanyahu, praised Israel’s recognition and its decision to consider opening a consulate in the Western Saharan regional capital of Dakhla as “both just and farsighted.”

Twenty-eight other countries—mostly African and Arab—have opened consulates in Dakhla or the city of Laayoune, in what Morocco sees as tangible support for its Western Saharan rule.

Moroccan Justice Minister Abdellatif Wehbe (R) and Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Saar (L), shake hands after signing an agreement in Rabat on July 26 , 2022. PHOTO BY STR/GETTY IMAGES 

Zisser noted that while the warming of Israeli-Moroccan relations would not necessarily effect regional change, Rabat is acutely aware of the strength of Israeli-U.S. relations at a time when radicals in the Arab world have sided with Algeria against Morocco.

With an eye to Arab public opinion, Morocco had postponed an annual diplomatic summit of countries signatory to the Abraham Accords over the Israeli government’s construction policies in Judea and Samaria and a burst of violence there. The gathering is expected to be rescheduled for this fall.

In a sign of the growing security ties, Israel appointed its first-ever military attaché to Morocco earlier this month, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi held a series of meetings in Rabat in June, and a delegation of Israeli soldiers took part in an international exercise in the North African country.

In another first, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana paid an official visit to the Moroccan parliament last month, where he expressed support for Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, signaling an imminent change in Israeli policy. It was the first official visit by a leader of Israel’s parliament to the legislature of a Muslim country.

This spring, Israel’s Transport Minister Miri Regev, who like the Knesset speaker and the military attaché is of Moroccan descent, traveled to Morocco and signed bilateral agreements with her counterpart, including on the recognition of Israeli driver’s licenses and maritime trade relations.

“This is a win-win deal,” Rabi said. “This is the voice of the 21st century.”

 

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

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