Morocco has agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, becoming the fourth Arab nation to move toward normalization with Israel in the last four months under President Trump’s “Abraham Accords” U.S. brokered peace deals.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” Trump tweeted the news Thursday.
Morocco follows the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan as the fourth nation since August to normalize relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia is believed to follow its neighboring Arab neighbors in becoming the next country in normalizing relations with Israel. Thursday’s announcement can help smooth the course for Saudi Arabic to join Trump’s brokered peace deals due to the close relationship and special bond between the royal houses of those two countries. Currently, under an agreement recently secured by White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner allows Israeli commercial flights to use Saudi Arabian airspace.
Trump announced Thursday that the two nations would restore diplomatic relations, leading to the two countries to reopen liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat as well as opening embassies. Part of the deal includes U.S. recognition of the disputed territory of Western Sahara as part of Morocco, a big shift in U.S. policy, and a major diplomatic achievement for the North Africa Arab nation.
With the U.S. becoming the only Western country to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, the change to this long-standing U.S. policy might not stand and could be reverted. If President-elect Joe Biden does takes office in six-weeks he will have to decide along with the foreign policy team of old faces he has ensemble whether to reverse Trump’s decision, a move that will collapse the Morocco-Israeli normalization process.
Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco's serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2020
Morocco annexed the full territory of the Western Sahara in 1979 but was unable to receive international recognition of its claims due to conflict with the indigenous Sahrawi people, represented by the political-military group Polisario Front. The final status of the territory has stalled under a 1991 cease-fire brokered by the United Nations.
According to a readout of a call between Trump and Morocco’s King, the president “reaffirmed his support for Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara territory and as such the President recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory.” The two nations also discussed “cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, ways to minimize its economic impact, and common interests in critical regional issues.”
Efforts to coordinate a three-way call between Trump, Netanyahu, and King Mohammed VI to happen within the next few days are currently underway since the president’s announcement.
Negotiations for this deal began over three years ago but intensified after the UAE and Bahrain brokered the joint deal with Israel in August. The talks of the deal only involved U.S. and Morroco as Israel pushed the Trump administration to pursue this course of talks. Israel and Morocco have had a secret relationship dating back to the 1960s through their respective intelligence services.
Kushner and special envoy Avi Berkowitz negotiated the deal directly with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. The White House briefed the Israeli government after the election of the possible breakthrough would occur within the recent weeks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the historic peace agreement as “the light of peace on this Hanukkah day has never – shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” and thanked Morocco’s King Mohammed VI “for taking this historic decision to bring a historic peace between us.”
Netanyahu said liaison offices would be reopened as soon as possible, followed by the opening of embassies and full diplomatic relations, as well as direct flights between the countries. Liaison offices between Israel and Morocco were established in 1994 after the Oslo Accords, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, but closed after the outbreak of the second Intifada, the brutal period of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in 2000.
In a briefing call to reporters Thursday afternoon, Kushner said the deal involves Morocco agreeing to resume official contacts with Israel, allow Israeli airlines the rights to use Moroccan airspace, and begin direct flights between the countries.
Kushner pointed to the strong US-Morocco relationship as the primary reason for recognizing their sovereignty in the Western Sahara, a talk he stated was a long time that seemed “inevitable at this point” and something that will “advances the region.”
“Today we announce that America will be recognizing Moroccan sovereignty in the Western Sahara. This is something that’s been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point and something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going,” Kushner said.
Much of the motivation behind the peace deals is a countermeasure to Iran’s aggression and its influence. Kushner touted the diplomatic breakthroughs from Trump as a rejection of the old Middle East paradigms, mentioning how the “terrible JCPOA deal,” the nuclear deal with Iran signed by President Obama in 2015 helped empower Iran and caused alienation with it’s America’s allies. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, a move that helped pave the game-changing efforts for U.S. to brokered the four deals between Arab nations and Israel.
“President Trump took a contrarian approach, one that was different than not just Democrats, but also Republican administrations,” Kushner said. “Just a different approach than the experts had been taking in the region. And the fruits of these efforts have been become very apparent, but we also believe that there is a lot more fruits to come in the short, medium, and long term.”
Biden promised to rejoin the Iran Deal as his formal deal to began dealing and negotiations with Iran. Such return to the grisly deal would destroy the bilateral agreements that seen a positive shift in attitudes towards Israel from Arab nations that have rejected its existence for decades, as well as destroying the strong U.S.-Israel relations and causing a repeat of the disastrous Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East.