Israel’s ties with Morocco not official, but warming

Though Israel has no official diplomatic ties with Morocco, its relations are warmer than with countries like Egypt or Jordan, which have signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. 

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Although Morocco and Israel are still officially enemies, you wouldn’t be able to tell today, reported Jackie Chugi on Army Radio Monday.

Many in Morocco object vociferously to any normalization with the Jewish state, but it is precisely the surprising extent of normalization between the two countries that sparked the objections in the first place.

“Not a month goes by without us hearing about Israeli sports competitors who  come to Morocco, about Israeli tourists, and even a senior security official who came to the Parliament,” said Chugi, translating an outburst by an angry Moroccan journalist.

The reporter noted some numbers that backed up the theory: 30,000 Israeli tourists visited Morocco in 2017, and Moroccan exports to Israel have gone from $5 million to $25 million in the past five years.

Researcher Einat Levy of Mitvim, the Israel Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, added, “There are many contacts, both open and secret, in almost every field you could think of.”

It helps that 800,000 Jews of Moroccan origin live in Israel – “making Israel essentially the second-largest Moroccan diaspora in the world,” she pointed out.

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Rabat in fact has no problem letting tens of thousands in to boost its tourism industry. More publicly, however, Morocco – unlike its fellow Arab countries still in a formal state of war with Israel – allows Israelis to compete in international tournaments under their own flag. And if they win, they may even hear their national anthem. When Timna Nelson-Levy won gold in the Agadir Grand Prix for Judo a few months ago, Hatikva was played loud and clear as she ascended the podium to get her medal.

This normalization certainly has many detractors, the report stated. Although dozens of delegations have come over the years – made up of engineers, educators, doctors, businesspeople and journalists, to name just a few – threats to the livelihood and even the lives of some of the Moroccan visitors have also occurred.

One journalist who came on a sponsored tour to Israel was quoted as saying that the Moroccan Journalist Association threatened those who visited that “steps would be taken against them,” which she deemed “strange,” as a journalist “is supposed to speak with Satan, go all the way to hell to find the story.” And, she stressed, “my country did not block me [from coming].”

According to Levy, this kind of opposition does do damage, albeit limited.

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“At the  end of the day, they don’t prevent cooperation,” she said, “but they do prevent Israel and Morocco from realizing the [full] potential of their relationship.”

Morocco did have low-level diplomatic relations for a short time with Israel. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, bilateral economic liaison offices were opened in both countries. However, after Yasser Arafat launched the second intifada in 2000 following his rejection of prime minister Barak’s peace offers at Camp David II, formal relations ceased. The ties with Morocco, however, are warmer than those Israel has with countries with which she has actually signed peace treaties.