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Morocco-Israel: Will renewed relations withstand the Gaza bombings?

By Fadwa Islah
Posted on Monday, 24 May 2021 19:08

Demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians, in Rabat, in front of the Parliament, 16 May 2021.

Despite Morocco's recent normalisation of relations with Israel, it remains committed to the Palestinian cause and has not held back in condemning the Jewish state's actions in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Despite the resumption of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel last December, the former has condemned Israel’s recent actions against the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Gaza through diplomatic, governmental, business and humanitarian channels as well as protests.

Morocco’s Prime Minister Saâd-Eddine El Othmani was the first to speak out as soon as the first clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, following the expulsion of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The prime minister wrote a post on Twitter in which he firmly denounced “the violations committed by the Israeli state, which undermine the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights and their aspiration to freedom and independence.”

Othmani also appeared on Al Jazeera on 16 May. During the interview, he reiterated the official position of the kingdom, which “categorically rejects all violations affecting the legal status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds Al-Shari.” Othmani also affirmed that “Morocco places the Palestinian issue and that of Al-Quds Al-Sharif at the top of its list of concerns and considers it to be just as important as its national cause.”

Solidarity with the Palestinian people

This point of view was also relayed by Morocco’s foreign affairs minister Nasser Bourita, who spoke with US secretary of state Antony Blinken on 18 May about the evolution of the situation in the Middle East.

Bourita thus specified, via the official Morocco-Diplomacy page, that “the kingdom firmly believes in the two-state peace solution”, which involves “establishing a Palestinian state based on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

These same terms appeared in the royal office’s 10 December 2020 statement, which was issued on the day that Morocco resumed diplomatic relations with Israel. In it, Mohammed VI had insisted on “the need to preserve the special status of the city of Al-Quds Acharif and to respect the followers of the three monotheistic religions’ freedom to practice their religion, as well as the Muslim character of Al-Quds Acharif and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In the same statement, the Moroccan sovereign made sure to point out – to those who thought that the kingdom’s position with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may have changed following US recognition of Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara – that it hadn’t. He stated “that Morocco considers the Palestinian issue to be just as important as that of the Moroccan Sahara, and that the kingdom’s efforts to consecrate its Moroccanness will never be done, either today or in the future, to the detriment of the Palestinian people’s struggle for their legitimate rights.”

Solidarity with the Palestinian people has also been expressed through large protests, which have taken place recently in several of the kingdom’s cities. In Rabat, nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched during the weekend of 15 May in the city centre, near the Parliament, to condemn ‘the violence perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians.’

“The participants of this sit-in, which was organised by political, associative and human rights groups, chanted slogans calling for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation of the holy city, as well as the continued aggression in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank,” reported the Moroccan agency MAP.

Similar sentiments were voiced in Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangiers, where rallies were held to “urge the international community to exert pressure on Israel to respect UN resolutions and put an end to its abuses against the Palestinian people.”

On 14 May, King Mohammed VI, who is also chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, had given “instructions to send emergency humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, consisting of 40 tonnes of basic foodstuffs, emergency medical supplies and blankets.”

 

 

 

Two Royal Air Force (RAF) planes carrying some of this humanitarian aid have already arrived in Amman, Jordan. Two other planes carrying another shipment of aid have landed in Cairo, from where it will be transported to Gaza.

Anger and indignation

The Confédération Générale des Entreprises du Maroc, CGEM (The General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco) has postponed a webinar on investment opportunities in Israel, which was initially scheduled for 18 May, and organised in the wake of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the kingdom and the Hebrew state last December.

However, no new date has been set. “An e-mail was sent to all CGEM members informing them that the webinar would be postponed,” Marwa Tellal, director of communications for the employers’ organisation, told us, without specifying whether the postponement was linked to the events taking place in Palestine.

Within this context of indignation and anger at Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and Gaza, everyone is wondering the same thing. If the violence was to escalate, will the Moroccan authorities go beyond these verbal condemnations? Will the agreements signed last December with the Hebrew state be called into question?

“For the time being, there is nothing to suggest that this will happen; the Abraham Accords are a strategic decision that was made at the highest level,” says an Israeli of Moroccan origin, who has worked for several years on Morocco and Israel’s reconciliation.

“Nevertheless, it is obvious that the attacks perpetrated by Benjamin Netanyahu only benefit Netanyahu himself. They do not benefit anyone else: neither the Palestinians, nor the Israelis, nor the development of good relations between Israel and the Arab countries, which had begun in recent months.”

Keeping a low profile

When asked about the conferences and cultural exhibitions that are planned for the coming weeks, he said that “most of the events are on stand-by, because it is currently a question of keeping a low profile until the situation has been resolved.”

Is this what pushed David Govrin, the head of the Israeli diplomatic mission in Morocco, to leave Rabat on 15 May? On his official Twitter account, he mentioned that he had left the kingdom for “personal reasons”, including “the hospitalisation of his father.”

He did not respond to our requests for comment. But one thing is certain: his presence in Rabat under these circumstances is not entirely welcome.

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