Unlike Sudan and the Gulf Countries, Morocco Has Deep Historical Ties with Israel

Yesterday, Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan in normalizing relations with the Jewish state. While Rabat did send troops to join in the 1948 attempt to annihilate Israel, it has historically been less hostile to Jerusalem than many other Arab nations. The North African kingdom was also once home to a large and thriving Jewish community, which was never the case in the Gulf states or in Sudan. Raphael Ahren writes:

Moroccan Jewry’s origins date back 2,000 years, to the destruction of the Second Temple and exile. In the modern era, the community reached a [peak population] of some 250,000 in the early 1940s, when Sultan Mohammed V resisted Nazi pressure for their deportation. Numbers dwindled with the establishment of Israel, and today only some 2,000-3,000 Jews remain, but hundreds of thousands of Israelis are proud of their Moroccan origins.

[Mimouna, a holiday that northwest African Jews] traditionally celebrate right after Passover ends, has become a fixture of the Israeli cultural calendar, with countless people barbequing in parks and politicians rushing to as many Mimouna celebrations as possible.

While Israeli tourists have begun discovering the Gulf only very recently, they have been flocking to Rabat, Marrakech, Casablanca, Tangiers, and Fez via third countries for many years. Once the two countries establish diplomatic relations and open direct air-links, that number can be expected to increase dramatically.

Following the 1995 Oslo Accords, Morocco and Israel opened mutual “liaison offices,” but they were closed a few years later after the second intifada broke out in 2000.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abraham Accords, Israel diplomacy, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco

Why Hizballah Is Threatening Cyprus

In a speech last Wednesday, Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah not only declared that “nowhere will be safe” in Israel in the event of an all-out war, but also that his forces would attack the island nation of Cyprus. Hanin Ghaddar, Farzin Nadimi, and David Schenker observe that this is no idle threat, but one the Iran-backed terrorist group has “a range of options” for carrying out. They explain: 

Nasrallah’s threat to Cyprus was not random—the republic has long maintained close ties with Israel, much to Hizballah’s irritation. In recent years, the island has hosted multiple joint air-defense drills and annual special-forces exercises with Israel focused on potential threats from Hizballah and Iran.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean.

This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron.

Yoni Ben Menachem suggests there is an additional aspect to Nasrallah’s designs on Cyprus, involving a plan

to neutralize the Israeli air force through two primary actions: a surprise attack with precision missiles and UAVs on Israeli air-force bases and against radar and air-defense facilities, including paralyzing Ben-Gurion Airport.

Nasrallah’s goal is to ground Israeli aircraft to prevent them from conducting missions in Lebanon against mid- and long-range missile launchers. Nasrallah fears that Israel might preempt his planned attack by deploying its air force to Cypriot bases, a scenario the Israeli air force practiced with Cyprus during military exercises over the past year.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Cyprus, Hizballah, U.S. Security