Rabat- Israeli television Channel 13 has reported that Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita met with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in September in New York.
While authorities in Rabat have not been forthcoming regarding recent reports of a potential work visit by Netanyahu in late March, neither denying nor confirming the rumored visit, another leak in the Israeli media has just suggested that “normalization talks” between Morocco and Israel are real.
“Quoting a senior Israeli official who was involved in arranging the meeting, the TV report said Netanyahu asked Bourita to advance the normalization of Israeli-Moroccan ties,” Israeli the Times of Israel reported yesterday.
While Channel 13 did elaborate on the reported “secret meeting,” it hinted to intense talks between Netanyahu’s office and Moroccan authorities to “normalize” diplomatic relations.
The pair reportedly met on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly, and Netanyahu “offered assistance for Morocco regarding Iran,” according to the same report.
Netanyahu’s office denied the news, however, issuing a statement that Israel does not comment on contacts with countries it has no formal diplomatic ties with.
On January 23, Norm Coleman, a former senator and former chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), tweeted a picture of a recent trip to Rabat.
The picture showed Coleman and a number of pro-Israel Jewish Republicans meeting with the Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita.
And while Bourita’s meeting with the RJC seemed to add legitimacy to Netanyahu’s normalization acclaims, Rabat’s silence means it is not yet certain which narrative to hold on to.
A number of recent developments suggest Netanyahu has no qualms about making his normalization inroads much bigger than they actually are because his political survival is at the stake.
Netanyahu’s aggressive normalization campaign
Meanwhile, many suspect Netanyahu himself of being the originator of the continued leaked information on his “normalization with Arabs” agenda.
Some of his domestic political foes have even accused him of condoning the leaks so he can positively influence the country’s public debate weeks prior to the election in March. For them, Netanyahu, hungry for another term in office, is poised to give any punches to land few marks in his favor as Israelis prepare to go to the polls.
The accusation seems far-flung, but it is hardly unlikely.
Recent weeks have seen a flurry of news reports in the Israeli press on the alleged normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and a host of Muslim and Arab countries.
Relayed in major Israeli news, the reports have been met with a fierce reaction in many of the concerned Arab countries. Morocco, a strong supporter of the now apparent sidelined two-state solution, was no exception.
Many Palestine-supporting Moroccan associations have since spoken up against the rumored normalization with Israel.
They have pointed out that Palestinian rights are part and parcel of Morocco’s identity on the global stage, and that no normalization can happen “as long as Israel’s occupation continues on Palestinian lands.”
Netanyahu’s keenness on perceived “normalization” was most apparent at the recent Warsaw summit.
While in the Polish capital, Netanyahu reportedly leaked a video that brought more spotlight to his normalization efforts.
The footage, showing Netanyahu in discussions with foreign ministers from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, seemed to support what he later described as a “historical turning point” in Arab-Israeli relations.
“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” he said of the Warsaw meeting.