Morocco Joins Other Arab Nations Agreeing To Normalize Relations With Israel

By: Reuters | Washington |

December 11, 2020 9:29:24 am

FILE – President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepare to step out onto a balcony of the White House in Washington (Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Israel and Morocco agreed on Thursday to normalize relations in a deal negotiated with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to sideline hostilities with Israel in the past four months.

It joins the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan to begin forging deals with Israel, prompted in part by US-led efforts to present a united front against Iran and roll back Tehran’s regional influence.

In a long-standing departure from US policy, President Donald Trump agreed as part of the deal to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a desert region where a decades-long territorial dispute has pitted Morocco against the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. , a separatist movement that seeks to establish an independent state.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will succeed Trump on January 20, will face the decision to accept the US deal on Western Sahara, something no other Western nation has done. A spokesman for Biden declined to comment.

While Biden is expected to shift US foreign policy away from Trump’s “America First” stance, the Democrat has indicated that he will continue the search for what Trump calls “the Abrahamic Accords” between Israel and Arab nations. and Muslim.

Trump sealed the deal between Israel and Morocco in a phone call with King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Thursday, the White House said.

“Another HISTORICAL advance today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations, a breakthrough for peace in the Middle East! Trump wrote on Twitter.

Mohammed told Trump that Morocco intends to facilitate direct flights for Israeli tourists to and from Morocco, according to a statement from Morocco’s royal court.

“This will be a very warm peace. Peace never, the light of peace on this Hanukkah day has never shone brighter than it is today in the Middle East, ”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, referring to an eight-day Jewish holiday that begins on Sunday. Thursday night.

The Palestinians have criticized the normalization accords, saying that Arab countries have pushed back the cause of peace by abandoning a longstanding demand that Israel cede land to a Palestinian state before it can receive recognition.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates issued statements welcoming Morocco’s decision. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

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“This step, a sovereign move, contributes to strengthening our common quest for stability, prosperity and just and lasting peace in the region,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan wrote on Twitter.

But Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican chairman of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, denounced Trump’s “shocking and deeply disappointing” decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Inhofe said that people living in the area should vote in a referendum to decide their future.

“The president has been poorly advised by his team. He could have made this deal without negotiating the rights of a voiceless people, “Inhofe said in a statement.

A senior US official said Trump was aware of Inhofe’s opposition to the recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. But Inhofe’s argument lost ground with the president when the senator refused to delay the annual defense spending bill when Trump demanded that it be used to repeal a law that grants liability protection to tech companies, the official said. .

The Morocco deal could be one of the last to be negotiated by the Trump team, led by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and US envoy Avi Berkowitz, before giving way to the incoming Biden administration. .

Kushner told reporters in a conference call that it was inevitable that Saudi Arabia would eventually reach a similar agreement with Israel. A US official said the Saudis are not likely to act until after Biden takes office, and even then there would be strong internal opposition that could block such a move any time soon.

Full diplomatic relations

Under the agreement, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel.

“They are going to reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention of opening embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies, “Kushner told Reuters.

Trump’s agreement to change US policy on Western Sahara was the lynchpin for the Morocco deal and a major shift from a largely neutral stance.

In Rabat, the Moroccan royal court said Washington will open a consulate in Western Sahara as part of Morocco’s agreement with Israel.

A White House proclamation said the United States believes that an independent Sahrawi state “is not a realistic option to resolve the conflict and that genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only viable solution.”

“We urge the parties to enter into discussions without delay, using Morocco’s autonomy plan as the only framework to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution,” he said.

Washington had supported a 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Western Sahara Polisario Front independence movement calling for a referendum to resolve the problem. Last month, after an incident at the border, the Polisario withdrew from that agreement and announced a return to the armed struggle.

A representative of the Polisario Front said he “very regrets” the change in US policy, which he called “strange but not surprising.”

“This will not change an inch of the reality of the conflict and the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination,” said the representative of the Polisario in Europe, Oubi Bchraya.

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