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Algeria's support for Polisario pushed Morocco to normalise ties with Israel, says former MP

May 29, 2024 at 3:54 pm

Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev met with her counterpart Mohamed Abdeljalil and signed three transportation deals in Morocco on 29 May, 2023 [@Le360fr/Twitter]

Morocco’s former Justice Minister, Mustapha Ramid, has claimed that Algeria’s stance towards the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara significantly influenced Rabat’s decision to normalise relations with Israel, according to a report by the New Arab.

Speaking at the Ahmed Raissouni Forum on the weekend – an event which focuses on Islamic thought, political issues, and social matters from an Islamic perspective, Ramid, who served as justice minister from 2012 to 2017, mentioned how specific national constraints can drive countries towards normalisation: “For Morocco, this mainly concerns the Moroccan Sahara issue… Western powers often exploit internal crises in countries to exert additional pressure.”

Ramid, a member of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), cited Sheikh Mehdi Shamseddine’s ideas on the “constraints of leaders and the choices of peoples.” He stated: “While governments might feel compelled to normalise relations, people have the right to reject such normalisation.”

The former minister defended his party’s role in resuming relations with Tel Aviv, which significantly eroded the PJD’s popularity and majority. In late 2020, as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords, Morocco normalised ties with Israel under Saad Eddine El-Othmani’s leadership, then prime minister and PJD head. This move divided the party and angered supporters, contributing to their loss in the September 2021 elections.

El-Othmani later claimed he was pressured into the decision, despite his long-standing anti-normalisation stance. Following the electoral defeat, the PJD re-elected Abdelilah Benkirane as secretary-general, who admitted, “normalisation was a mistake.”

The deal with Israel also led to the severance of ties with Algeria in August 2021 over alleged “hostile actions.” Rabat dismissed these accusations as “absurd”. The Morocco-Algeria rivalry, particularly over the Western Sahara, was intensified when the US recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory in exchange as part of the normalisation deal.

Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony that the UN considers a “non-self-governing region,” there has been a dispute over the area between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front for decades.

Despite the impact of Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza and popular opposition to relations with the occupation state, the report notes that some analysts believe Morocco is unlikely to reverse its stance on normalisation, emphasising its perceived benefits for the Palestinian people, such as securing aid.

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