How the Conflict in Western Sahara Relates to Peace between Israel and Morocco

Dec. 14 2020

As part of the deal that paves the way for the normalization of relations between Jerusalem and Rabat, the U.S. has agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a long-disputed territory on Africa’s Atlantic coast. The agreement comes a little less than a month after the Polisario Front—an Algeria-backed group fighting for Sahrawi independence—ended a 30-year ceasefire and resumed open conflict with Morocco. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains the geopolitical circumstances behind the Western Sahara conflict, and how they relate to Israel:

The conflict was sparked after Spain’s colonial withdrawal from the region in 1975, leaving Mauritania, Morocco, and the Polisario Front in an entrenched conflict over territorial sovereignty. . . . The timing of the [recent violation of the ceasefire] by the Polisario Front, which was undertaken seemingly out of nowhere, . . . warrants a closer look. It is possible that foreign powers encouraged this provocation as a means of interfering with the ongoing process aimed at concluding a peace agreement between Morocco and Israel.

Tehran is considered by Rabat to be its most dangerous rival, as it has been involved in subversive acts against the Moroccan regime. Tehran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah were accused of training and arming Polisario Front fighters with surface-to-air missiles, with the deliveries conducted via Iran’s embassy in Algiers. Evidence of these deliveries prompted Morocco to sever relations with Iran in May 2018 and to expel the Iranian ambassador to Rabat.

It is reasonable to infer that the Palestinian Authority (PA) also played a role behind the scenes, as it too wishes to torpedo the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel. The PA is furious that the Abraham Accords changed the traditional rules of the game in the Middle East, leaving the Palestinian question behind.

In other words, by upholding Morocco’s territorial claims, the U.S. might not just be giving Rabat a gift, but shoring up the regional alliance against Iran.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israel diplomacy, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, U.S. Foreign policy

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy