Morocco has become the latest Arab League country to agree to normalize relations with Israel in an agreement reached with US assistance.
As part of the agreement, the US has agreed to accept Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region.
Morocco is the fourth country to make such an agreement with Israel since August.
The Terms Of The Deal
Along with Egypt and Jordan, Morocco becomes the sixth member of the Arab League to mend ties with Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced the agreement on Twitter on Thursday.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” he wrote.
The White House said Mr Trump and Moroccan King Mohammad VI had agreed that Morocco “would return to the co-operative relations between Morocco and Israel and increase economic and cultural co-operation to promote regional stability”.
The agreement includes the reopening of communications offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat – closed in 2000 when low-level relations deteriorated following the outbreak of the Palestinian protests – and the opening of embassies eventually. Officials say Morocco will provide direct flights and return to Israel to all Israelis.
Israel And Morocco Statements
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the “historic” agreement.
In a televised address, he thanked the Moroccan king and said that Israelis and Moroccans had a “warm relationship in the modern world”.
In Morocco, a royal statement confirmed the transaction, saying that the king, by telephone with Mr. Trump, had agreed to cooperate politically with Israel with “little delay”.
Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain have issued statements accepting the agreement between Morocco and Israel.
Palestinian officials have criticized the agreement, saying it encourages the denial of their rights to Israel.
Palestinians have been critical of all recent agreements between Israel and the Arab League. They believe that these measures are in defiance of the Arab states’ refusal to build relations with Israel until a Palestinian state is established.
The Moroccan monarch said that “these measures do not affect Morocco’s continued and continued commitment to the right Palestine”, a royal statement said.
The statement did not state that the king had spoken to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and assured him that “he would never relinquish his role in protecting the legal rights of the Palestinian people”.
It said the king had reiterated his support for a two-state solution.
Western Sahara Dispute
The White House has said the United States will accept Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara as part of the deal.
In a phone call with the Moroccan king, Mr. Trump “confirmed that he supports Morocco’s independent proposal as the sole basis for a fair and lasting solution to the conflict in sub-Saharan Africa and thus the president saw Moroccan.
Formerly a Spanish colony, it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been a long-running feud between Morocco and its Saharawi people, led by the independent Polosario Front.
Morocco says it has always been part of its territory, while the African Union sees it as an independent country.
The 16-year-old uprising came to an end with a 1991 UN treaty promising a free and fair referendum.
Responding to a recent announcement, Sidi Omar, a representative of the Polisario Front at the UN, said “the legal situation in Western Sahara is determined by international law and UN resolutions”.
“This action shows that the Moroccan government is willing to sell its soul in order to continue smuggling into certain parts of Western Sahara,” he wrote on Twitter.
The group’s representative in Europe, Oubi Bchraya, said a change in US policy “would not change the real centimeter of war and the right of Western Sahara people to self-determination”, Reuters reported.
Last month, the Polisario Front claimed that ending the 30-year-old ceasefire was ended by Moroccan soldiers serving in the area.
Lotfi Bouchaara, Morocco’s ambassador to Moscow, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that Morocco had not violated the ceasefire but that its troops were responding angrily to police officers blocking a key road to Mauritania.
Morocco had reacted with “restraint”, he said.
Impact On Western Saha
A White House statement on Thursday said the United States believes that the Sahrawi state is “not a solution to the conflict and that true independence under the Moroccan monarchy is the only solution”.
The Moroccan royal court has said Washington will open a lawyer in Western Sahara as part of an agreement with Israel, according to Reuters.
The latest move by the Trump administration will not have immediate impact on the ground because the controversy appears to be greater than the US president’s wishes.
However, Trump’s support for the Moroccan monarchy over Western Sahara is significant because it undermines the hopes of the people who have been dreaming of independence for decades.
The UN has been given the mandate to oversee the Western Sahara independence referendum – although this has not happened since 1991, when it launched its own policy there known as the Minurso.
In the absence of a referendum, a long-running standoff between Morocco and the Polisario Front ends in favor of international recognition – a new independent state cannot be established without it.
Today, Western Sahara’s vision for the private sector is likely to be severely curtailed – and tensions that have been raging in recent months could be even worse.