Moroccan diplomacy is facing tough choice as Washington appears to push for normalization of relations with Israel.
Rabat – With US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expected today in Rabat, reports are ripe that the visit will essentially revolve around talks of prospective normalization between Morocco and Israel.
Several Israeli news outlets, including the Times of Israel, have pointed to the marked optimism among Israeli diplomats that the next weeks will witness unprecedented progress in normalization discussions with Rabat. “Israeli officials are hopeful that a breakthrough in normalizing relations with Morocco can be achieved in the next few days,” the Times of Israel reported on December 4, citing Israel’s Channel 12.
The Channel 12 report, said to be about the meeting between Pompeo and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Lisbon, Portugal, explains how Netanyahu plans to use diplomatic normalization with Morocco to salvage as his own troubled political future.
“The Channel 12 report, quoting unnamed senior officials in Jerusalem, said Israel was hoping to present a real diplomatic accomplishment in the next few days, before the end of the period to form a new government expires,” explained the Times of Israel.
As he seeks to boost support of at least 61 members out of the 120 at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Netanyahu is convinced that a diplomatic breakthrough with Morocco, described as one of the “moderate Arab countries,” can help accelerate the effective recognition of the Jewish state in the fraught Middle Eastern affairs. The Israeli PM hopes, too, that such a development would prove a decisive victory for him amid domestic challenges to his premiership.
Notable in the reports is that Netanyahu is understood to be expecting the breakthrough with Morocco by December 11, the deadline for the Knesset to move forward with, or block, the formation of a new Israeli government.
Still, the reports added, should Morocco not respond favorably by Netanyahu’s preferred deadline, the Israeli PM would be happy to continue pushing for normalization with Rabat and use any significant diplomatic gain for future elections.
Pompeo, expected to arrive in Rabat later today, is set to meet with King Mohammed VI, FM Nasser Bourita, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, and Abdellatif Hammouchi, the director of Morocco’s Directorate of National Security (DGSN). Officially, Pompeo and his Moroccan hosts will discuss advancing US-Morocco relations, especially on counter-terrorism and various aspects of regional security and intelligence sharing.
The latest reports of imminent normalization between Morocco and Israel now form a crowded repertoire of similar reports—of both confirmed and rumored meetings—of Washington’s push to have Rabat sign non-belligerent agreement with Israel. Such a move would entail an official recognition of Israel and the establishment of official diplomatic links between the two countries.
But with King Mohammed VI’s chairmanship of the Al-Quds committee, the Organization of Islamic Conference’s body tasked with maintaining a united Islamic or Arab front on the Palestinian question , Morocco’s insistence on having an independent diplomacy, and—most importantly, perhaps—the prevailing anti-normalization mood in the country’s public opinion, it remains to be seen what will come of Pompeo’s Moroccan visit.
At the latest meeting of the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo, Morocco renewed its commitment to the “just Palestinian cause” and condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“Morocco confirms its firm position on all issues related to the Just Palestinian cause,” said Ahmed Tazi, Morocco’s ambassador to Egypt. “We stand with our Palestinian brothers in their distress and support all their rights, especially the right to establish an independent and viable state of Palestine.”