On December 10th, the Twitter account of the US President Donald Trump once again informed the world about “a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East.” Morocco and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic relations, Donald Trump tweeted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the countries are working toward establishing full diplomatic relations ‘as rapidly as possible’. Netanyahu made a speech on Thursday, when he met the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for the ceremony in Jerusalem on the first night of Hanukkah.
“On this Hanukkah, the light of peace has never shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.
According to the claims, Israel and Morocco are going to start a new period in their diplomatic relations by opening mutual “liaison offices” and establishing direct aviation links.
In his speech, Netanyahu declared the friendly relations between the Israelis and Moroccans, mentioning the thousands of Jews living in Morocco and the proximity between the two peoples as the basis of warm relations between the countries.
“Everybody knows the tremendous friendship shown by the kings of Morocco and the people of Morocco to the Jewish community there. And hundreds of thousands of these Moroccan Jews came to Israel and they form a human bridge between our two countries and our two peoples — of sympathy, of respect, of fondness and love,” he said.
Diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco were established in 1994 and severed in 2000, after the first Palestinian intifada, which killed and injured dozens of Arab Israeli citizens. For twenty years, no significant steps have been taken by the two sides to meet each other during the last 20 years. Despite the Netanyahu’s strong statements that “there were warm relations between the peoples of Morocco and the Jewish people,” not so long ago, the Moroccan government made it clear that it did not intend to normalize diplomatic relations with Jews.
In August 2020, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El-Othmani proclaimed: “We refuse to normalize relations with the Zionist entity because this will embolden it to further breach the rights of the Palestinian people.”
It did not take long to persuade the Moroccan leadership. Rabat is interested in friendship with Israel since it improves relations with the United States. The main reason for the establishing of diplomatic relations with Israel was not the “large Jewish diaspora in Morocco” or “close ties between the peoples “, but the US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Therefore, the United States recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory. The U.S. took advantage of the situation by stepping up negotiations with the Arab side at a time when hostilities intensified in Western Sahara, and the Moroccan government had little choice but to accept support from Washington.
According to the statement by the President, the U.S. “will encourage economic and social development with Morocco, including in the Western Sahara territory”. Washington intends to open an American consulate in the Western Sahara city of Dakhla.
The territory of Western Sahara was claimed by Mauritania and Morocco. The latter controls most of the territory. In the 1970s, the POLISARIO Front proclaimed the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic, partially recognized by other countries.
The recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara confirms once again that the Trump administration is not interested in observing international law if it does not correspond to the U.S. national interests. It is a unilateral decision that goes beyond the decisions of the UN Security Council and contradicts UN mission aimed at holding a referendum in Western Sahara. Therefore, it should be expected that Morocco will receive significant financial preferences in the near future, especially in view of the fact that hostilities in Western Sahara are likely to intensify in the near future.
On the one hand, the decision conciliated Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI, but at the same time, it once again demonstrated disagreement between the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Benjamin Netanyahu kept his senior coalition partners from the Blue and White party in the dark about a brewing accord with Morocco. According to Israeli Channel 12, the Ministers were informed by the White House instead of the premier’s office. They were also updated weeks ago the progress toward the agreement was being started. The same situation occurred during the signing of agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.
The lack of coordination in the foreign policy demonstrates internal divisions in the Israeli Knesset. A few days ago, the Israeli opposition has submitted a bill on the early dissolution of parliament and the appointment of early elections for March 16, 2021. The decision by the Knesset will be adopted on December 14.
Leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, seeks to remove incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu from running the country and reduce his political influence to a minimum. He moved to action to cancel the coalition rotation agreements, which would require Netanyahu and Gantz to serve as Prime Minister for a year and a half each.
Anyway, Benny Gantz has no other choice but to congratulate Netanyahu with his today’s success in foreign policy.
“I welcome the expected establishment of official relations with Morocco. …. This is a significant development, one that will strengthen the security and economic interests of the two countries. I thank the American administration that works unwearyingly to strengthen Israel and for stability in the entire region.”- he said in a statement.
The news about the restoration of relations between Tel Aviv and Rabat has already been greeted abroad, by Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. The authorities of the Arab Emirates said that “this sovereign step is an important contribution to our common efforts to achieve stability, lasting and just peace in the region.” Congratulations to the King of Morocco, Muhammad VI, were sent by the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
Morocco will become the 4th Arab country to declare the normalization of relations with Israel in recent months. On October 23, Trump announced that Sudan and Israel had agreed to normalize relations. On September 15, in Washington, the Israeli side signed the agreement with the UAE and Bahrain.
Apparently, Netanyahu will miss Donald Trump a lot if he leaves the post of U.S. President. The Trump administration has close ties with Israeli elites and throughout the period has strenuously defended Israeli interests, sometimes even against US national interests.
Today Netanyahu has no choice but to try to make the most of the remaining time to further improve relations with Arab countries through American diplomacy. Trump, in his turn, is trying to consolidate the results of his policy on fumes and in spite of international law in order to present a solid legacy to his successor Joe Biden. If Biden comes to the post of US President, Netanyahu will have to reckon with the position of the new “big brother” on the number of crucial issues, such as the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear deal. And even the help of Tel Aviv’s new friends, like Morocco, Sudan or Egypt, is very unlikely to be sufficient to resolve the Tel-Aviv’s differences with the new U.S. administration.