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Morocco battles to build ties with Israel and support Palestinians

March 30, 2023 at 11:55 am

Protests in Morocco against normalisation with Israel and in support of Palestinians [Facebook]

Morocco faces a dilemma regarding balancing its alliance with Israel without abandoning the Palestinian cause, which still enjoys popular support. This challenge has become more apparent recently after the arrival of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

The issue came to the fore when King Mohammed VI reprimanded the Justice and Development Party (PJD) – which sits in opposition to the ruling government – in response to their condemnation of Morocco’s diplomatic links to Israel. The Royal Palace described this behaviour as “irresponsible”, after the PJD accused Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita of “defending the Zionist entity in some African and European meetings”. The Royal Palace reaffirmed that Morocco’s position on the Palestinian cause is “irrevocable”.

Rabat regularly asserts its commitment to the Palestinian cause, which is considered “one of the priorities of His Majesty the King’s foreign policy as the President of the Jerusalem Committee”, which is concerned with preserving the Islamic character of the city.

Rabat re-established diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv in December 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, which included several Arab countries under US sponsorship. In return, Rabat received recognition from Washington of “Moroccan sovereignty” over the Western Sahara, a region claimed by the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria. The pace of partnership between the two countries has accelerated since then, especially in the fields of military equipment (drones) and cybersecurity, in an arms race with Algeria amid tensions between the neighbours. Trade between the two countries increased 32 per cent in 2022, while the number of Israeli tourists visiting Morocco is also on the rise.

Israel’s far-right government has, however, complicated relations and efforts to improve ties as sympathy for the Palestinian cause remains widespread in Morocco.

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