Winds of Change for EU-Morocco Ties? — Israeli FM on Historic Visit to Rabat Announces Opening of Embassies

Written by | Monday, August 16th, 2021

Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid landed in Rabat for a two-day visit to Morocco on Wednesday (11 August), the first official visit by Israel’s top diplomat since 2003 and the highest-level trip since an agreement was signed by both countries normalizing the relations after some two decades. On Wednesday, the Moroccan and Israeli foreign ministers signed three accords — an air service agreement between the North African kingdom and the state of Israel, an agreement to cooperate in the fields of culture, sport and youth and also a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the establishment of a political consultation mechanism between their countries’ foreign ministries.
The MoU appears to fit into the wider design of the face-to-face diplomacy during the Israel’s FM visit to Morocco. The trip was then capped on Thursday (12 August) by the inauguration of Israel’s liaison mission in the capital Rabat. On this occasion, Lapid said that both sides would upgrade their relations to full diplomatic ties and open embassies in each others’ countries within two months. Morocco’s top diplomat, Nasser Bourita, told visiting Israeli counterpart that their countries’ newly upgraded ties will bring economic benefits and urged him to work towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel and Morocco share a long history of formal and informal ties, with many Israelis having a lineage that traces back to Morocco, which is still home to a small community of several thousand Jews. Both countries had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Rabat cut them off after the second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. The two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco each year. But last December, Morocco and Israel agreed to resume diplomatic relations under the US-brokered “Abraham Accords” with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. As part of the deal, Washington also recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Some experts point out that the normalization of relations with Israel need to be seen in Rabat’s diversification efforts – including through alliances with GCC and African countries, as well as China and, potentially, Russia – with the aim to be less dependent on the European Union in the future. As Yasmina Abouzzohour, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, argues, while the Moroccan regime knows it cannot survive without European trade and aid, the EU, on its part, will continue to see Morocco as a valuable ally especially owing to its important role in constraining irregular migration and fighting terrorism. But Morocco will in the future be less likely to accept EU criticism of its human rights record or its territorial dispute regarding Western Sahara – although it will likely continue to heed recommendations on its economy for so long as it receives EU funding. Ultimately, Abouzzohour emphasizes that Rabat will almost certainly distance itself from the EU and its member states if it believes that they have supported any infringement of Moroccan territorial sovereignty.

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.