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Benkirane confirms Justice and Development’s position on normalisation with Israel

February 20, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Former Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane in Morocco, on 25 September 2016 [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Abdelilah Benkirane, former head of the Moroccan government and leader of the Justice and Development Party, announced on Thursday that the party “has a specific position on normalisation and will not change it under pressure,” while criticising the rush of his party’s ministers to communicate and coordinate with Israel.

This came in a live Facebook speech that Benkirane delivered before members of the national office of the Moroccan Workers’ Union (UMT), the party’s syndicate arm.

In his speech, Benkirane expressed: “The party’s position regarding normalisation cannot be changed. The Justice and Development Party does not accept the imposition of a fait accompli. The party must remain unified within the principles and values ​​upon which it is founded.”

Benkirane stressed that what the Justice and Development Party had achieved: “Was through earnestness and steadfastness, not by compromising principles, but thanks to honest conduct, good manners, and a sense of understanding and moderation, and not by surrender,” in a severe reproach to the party leadership.

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However, Benkirane reaffirmed that normalisation with Israel: “Has been decided by the state that the king rules and not the Justice and Development Party.”

In response to a question about visiting Israel as part of his governmental duties, during an interview on 2M TV channel, Rabbah replied: “I represent the state, and if [the visit] is required, I will perform my duty, and I assume my responsibility for it,” in a statement that sparked widespread criticism inside and outside the party.

The Justice and Development Party, which has been in power since 2012, is facing sharp criticism for resuming relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv, while the party’s doctrine rejects all forms of normalisation since its foundation in 1967. The party’s response is that its stance is consistent with supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.

It is noteworthy that the positions of the Justice and Development Party and the bodies affiliated with it varied regarding Morocco’s normalisation with Israel, while the party avoided declaring a direct and explicit rejection of normalisation. On the other hand, the Justice and Development Youth and the Unification and Reform Movement (URM), the party’s advocacy wing, announced their categorical rejection of this step.

Two days after Rabat’s announcement, the party issued a statement in which it did not directly address that step. However, it avowed that the party’s: “Positions are firm regarding the Zionist occupation and the crimes it commits against the Palestinian people, including murder, displacement and desecrating sanctities.”

The statement reiterated the party’s rejection of: “The continuous attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, the confiscation of Palestinian lands, the denial of the Right of Return in a blatant violation of all international charters and decisions, and [the occupation’s] attempts to normalise relations and penetrate Muslim societies.”

The statement expressed the party’s: “Pride and confidence in the wise leadership of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and the historic achievements and strategic developments in the national cause.”

On 22 December, Saadeddine Othmani, head of the Moroccan government and secretary-general of Justice and Development Party, signed a joint declaration between Morocco, Israel and the US, during the first visit of an official Israeli-US delegation to Rabat.

According to the declaration, Morocco and Israel agreed to: “Continue cooperation in several areas, to reopen the two liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv, to immediately resume official contacts, and to establish full diplomatic relations.”

On 10 December, Morocco announced the resumption of official relations with Israel, suspended in 2000.

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On the same day, former US President Donald Trump announced his country’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Sahara region between Rabat and the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria.

In addition to Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain signed two normalisation agreements with Israel in 2020, while the Sudanese government announced accepting normalisation with Tel Aviv until forming the parliament to approve the agreement.

These developments sparked widespread rejection in the Arab World, as people accused the aforementioned countries of betraying the Palestinian cause, especially as Israel continues to occupy Arab lands and refrains from allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The four Arab countries joined Jordan and Egypt, which established official relations with Israel after signing two peace agreements in 1994 and 1979, respectively.