Moroccan-Israeli Relations Are Strengthening, but Slowly

July 14 2021

Last week, Alon Ushpiz, the number-two in Israel’s foreign ministry, visited Morocco—the first major diplomatic visit since the two countries resumed normal relations last year. Just a month before, however, Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of the Hamas politburo, also made an official visit to the country and dined with the king. Yet Sarah Feuer sees reason for optimism, especially now that the kingdom has reassurances that the Biden administration will continue the Trump-era policies that encouraged normalization:

On the day Haniyeh landed in Rabat, the king warmly congratulated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the formation of his government. Morocco has reportedly begun planning to upgrade its liaison office in Tel Aviv to an embassy, and on July 4 a Moroccan Air Force cargo plane landed at the Hatzor Air Base, reportedly to participate in a military exercise with the IDF. Seen in this context, Ushpiz’s visit, coming on the heels of a call between Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, injects additional momentum into the renewal of bilateral ties and offers an opportunity to begin translating a promising agreement on paper into more substantive policies in practice.

Where the normalization process goes from here will depend on both sides, but Israel can take steps to build upon Ushpiz’s visit and begin planting the seeds of a deeper, more sustainable bilateral relationship that can withstand external shocks such as the recent escalation in Gaza. The countries are reportedly set to launch direct flights, which will be a good start, but beyond encouraging tourism in both directions and more generally emphasizing the cultural links between the kingdom and Israeli Jews of Moroccan origin, Israel would do well to focus, quietly but methodically, on nurturing relations with Morocco’s business community.

For starters, the country is keen to gain access to Israeli technologies and investments, particularly those bearing on agriculture, which remains a dominant sector of the Moroccan economy. Likewise, a small but promising tech sector has emerged in the kingdom, where youth aged fifteen to twenty-four make up a third of the country’s population of 36 million and are keen to enter the global economy. As such, Jerusalem would do well to devise plans to demonstrate to this younger demographic sector that connecting to the Israeli high-tech ecosystem offers them one such entry point.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Israel diplomacy, Israel-Arab relations, Morocco, Yair Lapid


The U.S. Is Trying to Seduce Israel into Accepting a Bad Deal with Iran. Israel Should Say No

Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program. According to an analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, the Islamic Republic can now produce enough weapons-grade uranium to manufacture “five nuclear weapons in one month, seven in two months, and a total of eight in three months.” The IAEA also has reason to believe that Tehran has further nuclear capabilities that it has successfully hidden from inspectors. David M. Weinberg is concerned about Washington’s response:

Believe it or not, the Biden administration apparently is once again offering the mullahs of Tehran a sweetheart deal: the release of $10 billion or more in frozen Iranian assets and clemency for Iran’s near-breakout nuclear advances of recent years, in exchange for Iranian release of American hostages and warmed-over pious Iranian pledges to freeze the Shiite atomic-bomb program.

This month, intelligence photos showed Iran again digging tunnels at its Natanz nuclear site—supposedly deep enough to withstand an American or Israeli military strike. This tells us that Iran has something to hide, a clear sign that it has not given up on its quest for a nuclear bomb.

Meanwhile, Antony Blinken today completes a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly pressing the kingdom to enter the Abraham Accords. This is no coincidence, for reasons Weinberg explains:

Washington expects Israeli acquiescence in the emerging U.S. surrender to Iran in exchange for a series of other things important to Israel. These include U.S. backing for Israel against escalated Palestinian assaults expected this fall in UN forums, toning down U.S. criticism regarding settlement and security matters (at a time when the IDF is going to have to intensify its anti-terrorist operations in Judea and Samaria), an easing of U.S. pressures on Israel in connection with domestic matters (like judicial reform), a warm Washington visit for Prime Minister Netanyahu (which is not just a political concession but is rather critical to Israel’s overall deterrent posture), and most of all, significant American moves towards reconciliation with Saudi Arabia (which is critical to driving a breakthrough in Israeli-Saudi ties).

[But] even an expensive package of U.S. “concessions” to Saudi Arabia will not truly compensate for U.S. capitulation to Iran (something we know from experience will only embolden the hegemonic ambitions of the mullahs). And this capitulation will make it more difficult for the Saudis to embrace Israel publicly.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Antony Blinken, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship