New cooperation agreements for Morocco and Israel

(Rabat) The heads of Israeli and Moroccan diplomacy signed agreements on political cooperation, aviation and culture in particular on Wednesday during the first visit by a senior Israeli official to Morocco, seven months after the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Posted on Aug 11, 2021 at 2:27 pm

Kaouthar OUDRHIRI Agence France-Presse

These agreements “will bring innovation and opportunity to our countries for the benefit of our children,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Yaïr Lapid, welcoming “the restoration of peace and friendship” fueled by the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco.

The kingdom was the fourth Arab country – after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan – to terminate its relations with Israel in 2020 under the instigation of the United States by Donald Trump in return for American recognition of its “sovereignty” over the controversial Western Sahara Territory.

On the first day of this visit, described by Israeli diplomacy as “historic”, two agreements and a memorandum on cooperation in the fields of aviation, culture and sport and the establishment of political consultation mechanisms were signed.

The two countries had already signed water, aviation and finance agreements during the first visit by a delegation of Israeli officials who arrived on a first direct flight between Rabat and Tel Aviv in December 2020.

Deep links

During their meeting, Mr Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita discussed the situation in the Middle East and in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict states “.

The head of Israeli diplomacy did not mention the Palestinian question, but rather stressed the importance of normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab countries, thereby proving that “something is changing in the region”.

After the announcement of normalization with the Hebrew state, the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI.

The Palestinian cause continues to mobilize civil society, some extreme left parties and Islamists who continue to oppose a normalization of relations with the Hebrew state that the Palestinians call treason.

Morocco and Israel maintained official relations from 1993 to 2000 when the second intifada against the Israeli occupation broke out in the Palestinian territories.

In his statement, Mr. Lapid underlined the deep cultural ties between the Kingdom and Israelis of Moroccan descent. He is scheduled to open a diplomatic mission in Rabat on Thursday and visit Beth-El, one of the most emblematic synagogues in the megalopolis of Casablanca (west), before leaving.

Morocco’s Jewish community, present since ancient times, is the largest in North Africa (around 3,000 people) and represented up to 10% of the population in the late 1940s. And around 700,000 Israelis of Moroccan descent often have close ties with their country of origin .

“New opportunities”

Mr Lapid’s visit comes a little over two weeks after the direct commercial airlines between the two countries started. Before the pandemic, 50,000 to 70,000 Israeli tourists, mostly of Moroccan origin, visited the kingdom every year but had to travel through other countries.

Before the meeting of the two ministers, Israeli officials, including Minister of Welfare Meir Cohen and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament, Ram Ben Barak, visited the royal mausoleum where Kings Hassan II and Mohammed V are buried.

Mr Lapid’s visit to Morocco is “a big step forward” […] That will create new opportunities for peace and prosperity, ”wrote the American Embassy in Morocco on Twitter, saying that the United States is the architect of the Israeli-Moroccan rapprochement.

The two countries had already signed a cooperation agreement on cyber defense in Rabat in July, which covers “operational cooperation, research, development and information exchange,” said the Israeli National Directorate for Cyber ​​Security on Facebook.

The kingdom was recently accused of using Pegasus spyware from the Israeli company NSO, following an investigation by an international media consortium. Rabat categorically denied “these false and unfounded allegations” and initiated legal proceedings.

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