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Report: Israel, US and Morocco discussing deal

“This is one of the world’s most precious resources… we must secure as much of it as we possibly can… Morocco must be top priority.” 😉

(sometimes, I turn myself on so fucking much)

MainAll NewsMiddle East Report: Israel, US and Morocco discussing deal

Report: Israel, US and Morocco discussing deal

Deal would see US recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara and Morocco take steps to normalize ties with Israel.Ben Ariel, 04/02/20 04:04
King Mohammed VI of MoroccoKing Mohammed VI of MoroccoReuters

Israel and the US have been discussing a deal that would see the US recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara and Morocco take steps to normalize relations with Israel, Barak Ravid of Channel 13 News revealed on Monday, citing Israeli and US sources.

Such a deal would be a major diplomatic achievement for Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, and a boost for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — who would get a high-profile public visit to Morocco — in perilous political times.

It could also advance the Trump administration’s aim of bringing Israel and Arab states closer together, but would be a highly controversial step that runs counter to the international consensus.

The Western Sahara is a sparsely populated disputed territory, formerly controlled by Spain but claimed by Morocco despite international opposition and fierce resistance from the indigenous population.

According to Ravid’s report, contacts between Netanyahu and the Moroccans started getting more serious after a secret meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

That meeting was the result of a back channel established between Bourita and Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, with the help of businessman Yariv Elbaz.

Elbaz, a Moroccan Jew, is one of the main food retailers in Morocco and a close associate of Jared Kushner.

In May 2019, Elbaz met with Kushner in Morocco and took him and the entire White House peace team for a visit at the old Jewish cemetery in Casablanca.

The back channel was established behind the back of Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who is in charge of Israel’s secret diplomacy in the Arab world.

Cohen was furious when it was discovered, but Netanyahu told Ben-Shabbat to push ahead anyway, according to Ravid.

Israeli sources said Ben-Shabbat wanted to use Israel’s close relations with the Trump administration to reach a breakthrough with Morocco.

He approached Trump administration officials and proposed the US support the Moroccan position on a sensitive national security issue — the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

The proposal for a trilateral deal was also conveyed to the Moroccans, Israeli officials said.

Netanyahu tried to push the deal ahead of Israel’s April 2019 election, but it was shelved when details of Ben-Shabbat’s visit to Morocco leaked to the Arab press.

He tried again before the September 2019 election, but then-national security adviser John Bolton, a fierce opponent of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, killed the idea.

The issue came up again in November, before Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Morocco. Nothing came of it while Pompeo was in Rabat.

Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices in 1994, but those offices were closed in 2000 due to the wave of violence known as the “Second Intifada”.

Morocco supported the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) unilateral move to gain observer status at the United Nations in 2012.

There remains a Jewish community in Morocco, though it is not as large as it once was, with only about 3,000 people of the once 250,000-strong Jewish community still living there.

Exclusive: Israel pushing Trump to back Morocco over Western Sahara

A scene from Western Sahara. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and the U.S. have been discussing a deal that would see the U.S. recognize Moroccan sovereignty in the occupied Western Sahara and Morocco take steps to normalize relations with Israel, according to Israeli and U.S. sources.

Why it matters: This would be a major diplomatic achievement for Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, and a boost for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who would get a high-profile public visit to Morocco — in perilous political times.

  • It could also advance the Trump administration’s aim of bringing Israel and Arab states closer together.
  • But it would be a highly controversial step that runs counter to the international consensus.

The big picture: Western Sahara is a sparsely populated disputed territory, formerly controlled by Spain but claimed by Morocco despite international opposition and fierce resistance from the indigenous population.

  • A violent insurgency ended in 1991 after 16 years, but the matter remains unresolved.

The backstory: Contacts between Netanyahu and the Moroccans started getting more serious after a secret meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

  • That meeting was the result of a back channel established between Bourita and Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Meir Ben-Shabbat, with the help of businessman Yariv Elbaz.
  • Elbaz, a Moroccan Jew, is one of the main food retailers in Morocco and a close associate of Jared Kushner.
  • In May 2019, Elbaz met with Kushner in Morocco and took him and the entire White House “peace team” for a visit at the old Jewish cemetery in Casablanca.

The back channel was established behind the back of Mossad director Yossi Cohen, who is in charge of Israel’s secret diplomacy in the Arab world.

  • Cohen was furious when it was discovered, but Netanyahu told Ben-Shabbat to push ahead anyway.
  • According to Israeli sources, Ben-Shabbat wanted to use Israel’s close relations with the Trump administration to reach a breakthrough with Morocco.
  • He approached Trump administration officials and proposed the U.S. support the Moroccan position on a sensitive national security issue — the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.
  • The proposal for a trilateral deal was also conveyed to the Moroccans, Israeli officials said. 

Netanyahu tried to push the deal ahead of Israel’s April 2019 election, but it was shelved when details of Ben-Shabbat’s visit to Morocco leaked to the Arab press.

  • He tried again before the September 2019 election, but then-national security adviser John Bolton, a fierce opponent of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, killed the idea.
  • The issue came up again in November, before Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit to Morocco. Nothing came of it while Pompeo was in Rabat.

Morocco-Israel $48m arms deal

The Moroccan army has received 3 Heron reconnaissance planes from IsraelJanuary 31, 2020 at 3:10 pm    

Morocco this week received three Israeli reconnaissance drones as part of $48 million arms deal, French website Intelligence Online reported.

The three Heron aircrafts arrived on 26 January, reports have said, it is unclear what the military deal signed between the two countries also includes.

The drones will be deployed to counter extremist groups and fight rebel movements in the Western Sahara, the reports added.

Morocco and Israel have a long history of military and intelligence cooperation but have no official diplomatic ties.

Yesterday, Lior Ben Dor, the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs’ Arabic spokesperson, called for greater trade ties between the two states. “Welcome Moroccan people. I would love to tell you we invite investors, businessmen, researchers and Moroccan doctors to Israel.”

Morocco has long been accused of normalising relations with Israel. In October authorities arrested head of the Moroccan Observatory against Normalisation with Israel, Ahmed Wehman, after he organised a protest against improving ties with the occupation state.

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