Moroccan foreign minister postpones Israel trip citing Jewish settlement construction

Nasser Bourita said Morocco rejects settlement construction and stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. 

By Andrew Bernard, Algemeiner

Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Friday announced the postponement of a summit meeting between Israel, the US, and four Arab countries, citing problems with the current “political context” in Israel.

This year’s Negev Forum, named after the desert location of the 2022 meeting of the foreign ministers of Israel, the United States, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, was due to be held in Morocco in July. Speaking at a press conference Friday alongside the Swiss foreign minister, Bourita said that given the ongoing violence in Judea and Samaria, the summit could not achieve its intended result of increased cooperation between Israel and the four Arab states.

“The Negev Forum was the bearer of the idea of cooperation, of appeasement, of dialogue,” Bourita said. “And which is contrary to all provocative actions, all unilateral actions, and all decisions made by radicals on both sides, and especially on the Israeli side in relation to the occupied Arab territory.”

“Unilateral actions” is a term frequently used to describe Israeli settlement construction. Israel on Sunday put forward plans to approve thousands of new housing units in Judea and Samaria. Following the Hamas terrorist attack on the settlement of Eli that killed four Israeli civilians, Israeli media have reported that the government will expand that settlement by retroactively legalizing three settler outposts that Israel had previously regarded as illegal.

Bourita said Morocco rejects settlement construction and stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people. While Bourita did not set a date for when the Negev Forum might convene, he said it could be held in the autumn should the political context improve.

The announcement comes as ties between Israel and Morocco had been improving. Israel’s National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Speaker of Parliament Amir Ohana visited Morocco on 7 June, one of the most senior Israeli delegations to visit the country since the two established normal relations in 2020. During a visit to Morocco in May, Israeli Transport Minister Miri Regev told i24 news that Israel would soon take a position on Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Israel’s domestic politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have nonetheless caused diplomatic friction between Israel, the United States, and the signatories to the 2020 Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had to cancel or postpone five visits to the United Arab Emirates, most recently in January following Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Netanyahu has also yet to receive an invitation to visit Washington, DC, with President Biden saying in March that Netanyahu would not be invited “in the near term” as part of US criticism of Israel’s planned judicial reform package.