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The Arab world seeks internal disputes rather than confrontation with its enemies

September 1, 2021 at 11:41 am

The flags of Algeria (L) and Morocco flutters in Algiers, Algeria. [FAROUK BATICHE/AFP/Getty Images]

As if the domestic issues facing the Arab world are not enough, we seem to need more crises and tension between regional states. An old-new crisis in north-west Africa has risen yet again; the Algerian government has decided to cut diplomatic relations with Morocco, and justified this by citing the latter’s “hostile” actions in Algerian territory. Algeria accuses Morocco of lighting fires in some Algerian governorates and spying on Algerian officials using Pegasus spyware, claiming that this is part of a diabolical Moroccan-Zionist plot to destabilise Algeria by supporting two separatist movements.

In fact, the crisis between the two countries was not a result of current events. It goes back many decades. In 1976, for example, relations between the neighbouring countries were also cut on the orders of the Moroccan monarch at the time.

The border conflict began after Algeria’s independence in 1962, when fighting broke out in what was known as the Sand War. At that time, the Algerian army was supported by Egypt. The then President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser regarded himself as the godfather of all Arab revolutions and backed the Algerian revolution with funds and weapons. He was hostile to all Arab monarchies, which he described as obsolete and supporters of global imperialism.

This hostility between Algeria and Morocco continued until a Saudi-mediated agreement to normalise relations was signed in 1988. This did not remove the bad blood, though. At one stage, the Moroccan consul in western Algeria described it as “an enemy country”.

Morocco’s ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, used a meeting of the Non-Aligned Countries in mid-July to call for the independence of the Kabyle people in Algeria. The government in Algiers summoned its ambassador from Rabat for consultations, a standard diplomatic move in disputes between countries. The ambassador has still not returned to Rabat.

Morocco: Western Sahara file is settled whether Algeria likes it or not

It is certain that Morocco’s call for the Kabyle people’s independence was an attempt to settle political scores with Algeria, in response to the latter’s support for the Polisario Front and recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic, which Rabat considers to be Moroccan territory.

The Western Sahara issue is one of the longest political and humanitarian conflicts in the world today. The territory is rich in natural resources and was a Spanish colony from 1884 to 1976, after which Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front clashed over the right to sovereignty.

Morocco wants to expand in the phosphate-rich desert, increasing its influence and taking the lead in the region. Algeria, meanwhile, wants to curb Moroccan influence and believes that it is well qualified to be the regional lead. This is why Algiers encouraged the Polisario Front to declare an independent Sahrawi Arab Republic, persuaded many countries to recognise it, and backed the Polisario presence in the forerunner of the African Union, the Organisation of African Unity. Its membership was agreed, so Morocco withdrew. The Western Sahara remains a complex and thorny issue for its neighbours.

Former US President Donald Trump used the territory as a bargaining chip to get Morocco to normalise relations with Israel, in return for which Washington recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The Kingdom has in any case long had close links with Israel; under King Hassan II there were decades of security ties which were denied by both sides. Moroccan dissident Mahdi Ben Baraka asked Zionist intelligence officers to help him assassinate Hassan, but they informed the Moroccan monarch and helped him to track down Baraka in Paris. He was tortured to death, and his body has never been found.

King Hassan rewarded the Israelis for their support by allowing Moroccan Jews to emigrate, and approving the establishment of a Mossad bureau in the country. In return, the occupation state gave weapons and training to the Moroccan army. Israel has also provided the North African country with surveillance technology and supervised the restructuring of the Moroccan intelligence agency.

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The most dangerous aspect of King Hassan’s actions was that he passed to Israel details of the military capabilities of Arab states gleaned at a 1966 summit in Casablanca. Mossad agents were ready to listen in to the summit and record proceedings themselves, but Hassan was apparently afraid of being exposed, so he agreed to do this himself. In 2016, the retired head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Shlomo Gazit, said that, “These recordings were a miraculous achievement and gave the army hope that we would win the war against Egypt.”

Given the great services that King Hassan had provided to the Zionists, it was natural that he would become a channel of communication between Israel and the Arab World. Secret meetings between Israeli and Egyptian officials took place in Morocco before the signing of the Camp David peace deal. Moreover, it was said to be Israel which convinced the US to give military aid to the Kingdom. Such relations have continued under Hassan’s son, King Mohammed VI, who sought Israeli help to get the US to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

This is a brief summary of the secret relations between the Zionist entity and Morocco, which took place during the reign of King Hassan II and continued during the era of his son King Mohammed VI, who asked the Zionists to help him persuade the United States to recognise his country’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. The leader of the Jewish community in Morocco, Sergei Bargudo, acted as the king’s mediator and met with American Jewish leaders and Zionist officials to achieve this. Now all of these links are out in the open.

Observers of recent events between Algeria and Morocco would not have been surprised at Algeria’s decision to cut ties with Rabat. The Algerian people are suffering under the regime, so the government’s move would have been taken in order to divert attention from the issues at home.

Morocco is not innocent in all of this. When Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Rabat last month he expressed the Zionist entity’s concern about Algeria’s role in the region and its significant rapprochement with Iran.

The situation between Algeria and Morocco sums up the position of the Arabs as a whole. We are more inclined to dispute with each other and seek support from mutual enemies in the process, rather than work together to confront those enemies.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.