The report cited four current and former Israeli officials who claimed that the matter had been brought up numerous times in conversations with Moroccan authorities in recent months. Despite Rabat having opened liaison offices in Israel and committing to opening an embassy in Tel Aviv, Moroccan officials are said to have demanded formal recognition of their sovereignty over the Western Sahara each time the issue is raised by Israeli officials.
The issue of Western Sahara formed part of the US-brokered normalisation agreement with Israel, the Abraham Accords signed in 2020. Morocco became the fourth Arab state to sign the deal after then-US President Donald Trump agreed to recognise Rabat’s territorial claims over Western Sahara.
The Axios report states that during a visit to the kingdom in June last year, Israel’s then-Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told local media that Tel Aviv recognises Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory. However, the Israeli Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement retracting Shaked’s remarks, saying that “Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara is a positive development.”
Additionally, the report states that then-Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar visited Morocco several weeks later and publicly stated that Western Sahara is a part of Morocco, but the ministry again distanced itself from this statement and reaffirmed its more nuanced position.
It has been speculated that the Moroccan government is using the recognition issue as a pretext in delaying the opening of a formal diplomatic mission in Israel, due to growing domestic criticism over the decision to re-establish relations with the occupation state. It is also believed that Israel’s incoming far-right government headed by returning Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – who hopes to visit the North African country in the coming months, will be less reluctant in accepting Rabat’s conditions.