Monday, 25 Sep 2023 - 10 of Tishri, 5784

With Israel’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a new chapter opens between the two countries

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Israel’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara makes it a strategic partner for the Kingdom and considerably strengthens the current bilateral dynamic.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Rabat.

Morocco will upgrade its liaison office in Tel Aviv to the rank of embassy.


Since Israel and Morocco normalized their diplomatic ties in 2020 in the framework of the Abraham Accords, Rabat had expected Jerusalem to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony and disputed territory with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front.

The U.S. under former President Donald Trump already made such a recognition as part of the Abraham Accords. More than twenty countries in the world have done so.

While Israel’s relations with Morocco have skyrocketed since 2000, in security, trade, economy, tourism and culture, Rabat didn’t raised the level of Israel’s representation in Rabat from liaison office to embassy as long as the issue of the recognition of Morocco’s rights to Western Sahara was still pending in Jerusalem.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI considers the Sahara issue as the prism through which his country views its international environment and relations.

During his visit to Israel in March 2022, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita met with then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, It was during this meeting that Netanyahu promised that should he return to power, he would recognize Western Sahara as part of Morocco in the name of the State of Israel,wrote daily Israel Hayom. Netanyahu came back as Prime Minister last December.

During the period of the Bennett-Lapid government, Israeli politicians had been wrestling for two years with the issue of whether or not to recognize Western Sahara. The arguments against doing so were the anticipated criticism from some European states and concern that some of them might even declare recognition of “Palestine” in response.

The process moved ahead until remarks Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen delivered durinf a briefing to the foreign media about 10 days ago. In response to a question regarding the Israeli position on Western Sahara, he said, “We are currently working on that issue, and our plan is to reach a final decision at the Negev Forum scheduled to take place in September.”

Cohen was simply reflecting the process taking place behind the scenes, in which Israel had indeed decided to recognize Western Sahara as part of Morocco. However, in the Moroccan media, his words were interpreted as an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on Rabat and to apply conditions to Jerusalem’s recognition.

Last week, Bourita phoned the head of the Israeli National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, asking for clarification on what Cohen had said.

In response and to make it crystal clear that Israel had absolutely no intention of trying to gain any leverage over Morocco, both the National Security Council and the Israeli Foreign Ministry worked to expedite the dispatch of Netanyahu’s letter last week in which he finally declared Israel’s recognition of Western Sahara and announced Israel’s intention to open a consulate in Dakhla, a resort in the area.

And following that decision, King Mohammed VI invited Netanyahu to visit Morocco and Rabat is “in the process” of upgrading its diplomatic mission in Israel to an embassy. ‘’You are welcome to visit Morocco, on dates to our mutual best convenience, to be defined through diplomatic channels,”, wrote the King in a message to Netanyahu.

For the first time, also, an Israeli military attaché of Moroccan origin has been appointed in Rabat and the liaison office in the Moroccan capital will become an embassy.

Israel’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara makes it a strategic partner for the Kingdom and considerably strengthens the current bilateral dynamic, said  Mohamed Badine El Yattioui, professor of international relations at the American University of Dubai.

In his message, King Mohammed VI affirms that his meeting with the Israeli premier “will open up new possibilities for bilateral relations between Morocco and Israel” and “will also be an opportunity to promote the prospects of peace for all the peoples of the region, bearing in mind the content of the Tripartite Declaration signed on December 22, 2020 between the Kingdom of Morocco, the United States of America and the State of Israel, including the principles that should guide the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

“The momentum the two countries are experiencing is unprecedented, both in terms of exchanges of visits by officials and businessmen, and in terms of the development of the conventional framework, the diversification of cooperation and the strengthening of trade exchanges”, noted the King, welcoming the fact that the deep human ties that exist between the Kingdom of Morocco and the State of Israel – notably through the Jewish community of Moroccan origin – are playing a catalytic role.

Emmanuel Navon, professor of international relations at Tel Aviv University, considers that “Israel’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara completes the process of normalization between the Cherifian Kingdom and the Hebrew State”. ‘’The two nations have a long shared history,’’ he said.

Another consequence of the Israeli decision is that Morocco will convene this autumn a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Negev Forum, a body created in 2022 to enhance cooperation among Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and the US. Morocco had twice postponed the meeting citing Israel’s expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.


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