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Morocco Joins the Normalization Train
Flag of Western Sahara (Wikimedia Commons)

Morocco Joins the Normalization Train

Al-Khaleej Online, UAE, December 10

Less than three months after the UAE and Bahrain signed a normalization agreement with Israel, and more than a month after Abu Dhabi opened a consulate in the disputed Sahara region, Rabat has moved on the path of normalization with Tel Aviv. Last week, US President Donald Trump announced the agreement — the fourth of its kind in four months — to normalize ties between Morocco and Israel and establish full diplomatic relations between the two capitals. Trump also announced Washington’s recognition of the Western Sahara region as “part of Morocco.” It should be noted that this agreement may very well have been made possible thanks to secret Emirati efforts behind the scenes, after Abu Dhabi opened a consulate in Western Sahara and attempted to persuade the King of Morocco that the path to international recognition of the Sahara region passes through Tel Aviv. Indeed, a statement issued by both parties on October 28 indicated that the consulate will be located in El-Ayoun, the largest city in Western Sahara, and that the decision came after a phone call between Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Despite the confirmation of Morocco’s joining the normalization train that targets several Arab and Gulf stations under American auspices and with Emirati support, the popular position on this step may push the country toward unrest whose extent is unknown. Especially since the question of Palestine is no less crucial to Moroccans than the issue of the Sahara, as some say. Despite the fact that normalization of ties with Israel has become a growing phenomenon in the Arab world, it still remains to be seen how the Moroccan public will react to this decision. This is especially important since the question of Palestine is no less important to Moroccans than the question of the Sahara, according to several experts. This fact can be glimpsed in the Moroccan street’s stance towards Emirati normalization, which was radically different from the official position that preferred silence and did not express a clear position on the Emirati move. Following the UAE’s announcement of establishment of ties with Israel, Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani rejected the agreement and described Israel as “the Zionist entity.” However, many Moroccans spoke out against the prime minister and emphasized that all foreign policy decisions are made by the king alone. Morocco’s relationship with Jews in general, and Israel in particular, is historical. Jews were part of the Moroccan royal decision-making circles and played major roles in foreign policy. In addition, the Moroccan ruling elite — consisting of royals, landowners, tribal leaders, senior military personnel, and security chiefs — has maintained rather overt ties with Israeli officials over recent years. According to Dr. Idris Attia, a professor on the faculty of political science and international relations at the University of Algiers, the UAE is convincing Arab and Gulf states that getting closer to Israel guarantees them some political and economic services or interests, while the reality is that the Israelis only seek to contain the region and destroy it internally. The Algerian analyst believes that the countries that normalized with Israel lack a healthy democracy, and made these decisions out of factional interests, not out of protection of national or Pan-Arab interests. Idris maintained that: “It would have been more appropriate for the Emirates to spend their resources on the Arab world, the Gulf region, and in Africa” in order to develop the Arab world’s relations with key African states, instead of pursuing narrow private interests. –Ashraf Kamal (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

 

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