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World

Israeli envoys fly to Morocco, aim to fortify U.S.-brokered ties

  • On Tuesday, Israel sent envoys to Morocco to meet its king and work on an upgrade of diplomatic ties, which were forged by the White House.
  • Ben-Shabbat and Kushner will see Morocco’s King Mohammed during a two-day trip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Updated 22 Dec 2020

JERUSALEM: On Tuesday, Israel sent envoys to Morocco to meet its king and work on an upgrade of diplomatic ties, which were forged by the White House in the Trump Administration's normalisation push towards Israel across the Middle East.

Led by Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, the delegates were originally accompanied to Rabat by Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and National Security Advisor on Middle Eastern affairs, who served as the architect of these diplomatic initiatives.

They took El Al Israel Airlines in the first direct flight by a commercial plane from Tel Aviv to Rabat, opening the way for a possible surge in tourism among the hundreds of thousands of Israelis of Moroccan descent.

Palestinians have been critical of U.S.-brokered normalisation deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, saying the Arab countries have set back the cause of peace by abandoning a longstanding demand Israel give up land for a Palestinian state before receiving recognition.

As the Trump administration has sought to isolate Iran, the normalisation deals have been sweetened with promises of business opportunity or economic aid. Israel’s new partners have also seen bilateral benefits from Washington - in Rabat’s case, U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Ben-Shabbat and Kushner will see Morocco’s King Mohammed during a two-day trip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Some U.S. officials have privately voiced hope of hosting an Israel-Morocco signing ceremony at the White House before Trump steps down on Jan. 20.

Facing domestic dissenters at the engagement with Israel, Moroccan ministers have cast it as a formalisation of de facto relations under which Rabat had hosted an Israeli “liaison office”. Shut in 2000 in solidarity with the Palestinians, that office will now reopen. Israel hopes for mutual embassies, eventually.