The excitement was palpable in Israel as Morocco became the fourth Arab country to agree to ‘normalise’ relations with the Jewish state after a concerted diplomatic campaign by the Trump administration. The two countries agreed to start direct flights and open offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv as a prelude to establishing full diplomatic relations.
Last night, during the ceremony to light the first Chanukah candle at the Western Wall, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “The people of Morocco and the Jewish people have had a warm relationship in the modern period. Everybody knows the tremendous friendship shown by the kings of Morocco and the people of Morocco to the Jewish community there. And hundreds of thousands of these Moroccan Jews came to Israel, and they form a human bridge between our two countries and our two peoples, of sympathy respect, of fondness and love. I think that this is the foundation on which we can now build this peace."
The quid pro quo for a full peace is US recognition of Morocco ‘s claim to Western Sahara. In 1975 the kingdom organised a peaceful Green March of thousands of Moroccans into Western Sahara. Annexation is hotly disputed by the Algerian-backed Polisario guerrillas and the people of the Sahel.
The deal also represents a triumph for Moroccan royal adviser Andre Azoulay. For decades Azoulay has instrumentalised the Jewish community in Morocco in order to gain US support for Morocco’s foreign policy objectives. Although only 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco out of a community of 265,000, Azoulay has pushed Jewish culture to the fore. Lately, it was decided to include Jewish history in the school curriculum. Azoulay is behind the preservation of Jewish heritage, Muslim-Jewish interfaith initiatives, music festivals and concerts attracting Jews and Muslims. Every mixed concert ends with the singing of Allah Hu Akbar, a kind of anthem to Morocco ‘s claim over Western Sahara.
There has already been cooperation between Israel and Morocco on the intelligence front. Morocco has helped broker the peace deal with Egypt, and 50,000 Israelis of Moroccan extraction visit the country every year.
In spite of the efforts of the philosemitic Mimouna group, many young Moroccans are antisemitic and there are Islamist sympathisers in the country. There have been several attempts to overthrow the king.
Moroccan Israelis fete normlisation agreement: (Times of Israel)