Moroccans unwilling to rent space to Israel for embassy

Rapprochement with Israel is reportedly not popular among Moroccans, but they need the tourism dollars.

By World Israel News Staff

David Govrin is the man tasked with re-establishing Israel’s diplomatic presence in Morocco. Israel and the North African kingdom agreed to restore ties in December 2020, but Moroccans aren’t willing to rent space to the Israelis.

Haaretz reports that for the last six months, Govrin has been operating out of a hotel in the Moroccan capital of Rabat.

Following the Oslo agreements of 1994, Israel and Morocco set up liason offices. But those offices were closed in 2000 when Morocco severed ties with Israel during the Second Intifada. Moroccan interests in Israel are represented in a Tel Aviv liason office, which was reopened in February. Abderrahim Beyyoud is the head of the liason office.

The previous liason office was located in an area far from Rabat’s city center, and the Moroccan government suggested Govrin open the liason office there. But Govrin wants to open the office in Souissi, Rabat’s diplomatic quarter. He hopes the liason office will soon become a fully-staffed embassy like the other embassies in the area.

Rapprochement with Israel is not popular among Moroccans, according to the Haaretz report.

Social media posts call on King Mohammed VI to “get rid of the Israeli emissary” and declare that “normalization is treason and an unforgivable crime.” Bilateral trade, Haaretz adds, “is implemented at a snail’s pace, which Israeli officials believe is intentional on Morocco’s part.”

Direct flights between Israel and Morocco are due to begin in July, but Israir is still in the dark as to how many flights a week will be approved.

Moroccan cabinet officials planning to visit their counterparts in Israel cancelled their plans during the recent Gaza war. It is believed that none have made any effort to reschedule those visits.

In 1948, Morocco was home to more than 250,000 Jews. Riots targeting Jews broke out during Israel’s founding and most of the Jewish community fled. By 2019, Morocco’s Jewish population dwindled down to approximately 2,100. In Israel, an estimated one million Jews are of Moroccan descent.

After a year of tourism lost to Covid, Morocco is pinning its hopes on those Israelis to visit and spend their money, Haaretz notes.

A Moroccan journalist explaining the tourism situation to Haaretz couldn’t be identified by name “because the journalists union has rejected normalization and bans members from speaking to Israelis.”

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He insisted that Israeli tourists exploring places like the Old City of Marrakech, Casablanca’s Museum of Moroccan Judaism, and the Dades Gorge in the Atlas Mountains would certainly be welcome.

“The tradition of [good] relations with the Jewish community and the good impression left by the tourists, not to mention the expected economic benefit, form the basis for continued tourism ties, especially after the huge damage to the country due to the coronavirus.”