Netanyahu sees Morocco as the jewel in this normalization crown, regardless of whether or not Rabat is interested.
Rabat – In a new attempt to set the tone about yet another misleading narrative about Morocco-Israel relations, the Jerusalem Post is once again claiming that Morocco is among countries willing to normalize ties with Israel.
Citing Israeli channel N12, the Israeli outlet claimed in a news story published on Saturday that Morocco will open direct flights with Israel.
Without providing any details or evidence, the news confidently concluded the two countries have agreed to open direct flights between them in the near future.
Following the same pattern of previous news reports where American and Israeli media talked about imminent steps by Morocco to normalize its ties with Israel, the Jerusalem Post seems to create a link between the official signing of the so-called Abraham Accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on September 15 in the White House.
By all accounts, this news story seeks to create the impression that Morocco’s decision to normalize its ties with Israel is only a matter of time, despite Rabat’s clear rejection of Tel Aviv’s expansionist policies in the West Bank.
While Rabat has welcomed Trump’s efforts to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Moroccan government has traditionally distanced itself from the so-called “deal of the century.” In this, Morocco has steadily reiterated its belief in and hope for a lasting and mutually acceptable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with the Security Council’s resolutions and other international regulations.
The media and the normalization fray
Cavalierly ignoring Rabat’s storied commitment to the two-state solution, however, almost all the news reports in recent weeks have tended to espouse a heavily pro-Israel narrative. In defiance of Morocco’s official and constantly reiterated position, the news cycle has continuously implied that Rabat would be at the top of capitals willing to establish diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv. Over the months, such reports proved fake. But the same pattern is set to continue, as evidenced by the Saturday report from the Jerusalem Post.
As recently as last month, a Washington Post columnist and the Wall Street Journal article said that Morocco would follow in the footsteps of the UAE and sign a “peace deal with Israel.”
A few days later, the Associated Press jumped on the normalization bandwagon, misleadingly reporting that Morocco was among the countries that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, would visit during his Middle East tour aimed at convincing more Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.
In December of last year, Israeli officials “leaked” information that Morocco was preparing to welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Rabat.
The visit did not take place and Pompeo did not meet with King Mohammed VI. His planned meeting with the Moroccan monarch, which was initially included in the agenda released by the State Department, was canceled.
Pompeo was also scheduled to attend a dinner with King Mohammed VI at the Royal Palace. That dinner, too, never took place. To top it all off, the press conference that was due to take place following Pompeo’s meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita was also canceled.
During the visit, members of the US delegations accompanying Pompeo said the normalization of Morocco-Israel ties was not discussed and dismissed Israeli reports about Rabat’s openness to normalizing ties with Israel.
King Mohammed VI and the Palestinian cause
It later transpired that King Mohammed VI had rejected Netanyahu’s request to join Pompeo during his visit to Morocco. Hosting Netanyahu in Morocco would have been tantamount to normalizing Israel and its policies in the West Bank and Gaza. While there were no official statements to explain the many last-minute changes in Pompeo’s Rabat visit, it can confidently be argued that the sudden changes were due to Pompeo’s and Netanyahu’s attempt to pressure Morocco into welcoming the Israeli prime minister in Rabat.
These reports leave no doubt about both Israeli and American media’s subtle intention to perpetuate the narrative that Morocco is among the friendliest Arab countries towards Israel. The point — or the hope, perhaps — is to inveigle Rabat into reconsidering its principled commitment to the Palestinian cause. Typically, the Trump administration and Netanyahu have pitched the normalization of Israel as the prerequisite of a real and sustainable breakthrough in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
To their dismay, however, Morocco has repeatedly expressed its rejection of Israel’s expansionist policies and its plans to Judaize Jerusalem and obliterate its Arab-Islamic and Christian heritage. As long as Israel continues to show contempt for international norms and for the rights of the Palestinians, normalization of ties between Morocco and Israel will remain a distant dream, no matter how hard proponents of normalization wish to see this happen.
At its heart, the relentless peddling of unsubstantiated claims of an imminent rapprochement between Morocco and Israel is no doubt due to the fact that normalization’s most passionate advocates regard a country like Morocco as a bigger prize than the UAE or Bahrain.
Among these are some of the many Moroccan Jews who live in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a marginal number of non-Jewish Moroccans. They pin their logic and hopes on the sizable number — over a million — of Jews of Moroccan origin living in Israel. Morocco, they argue, should be among the first countries to normalize ties with Israel, lest it loses its influence on Israel. But what influence are we talking about?
Can Morocco influence Israel to abide by the multitude of Security Council resolutions that called on it to respect the inalienable rights of the Palestinians? Attempting to sell this argument on the assumption that Morocco will have any influence on Israeli policies or that Jews of Moroccan origin would do anything to serve Morocco’s interest is a misleading and insidious argument that seeks to serve one party only: Israel.
It is one thing to say that Morocco has strong ties with members of its Jewish diaspora around the world, including in Israel. But it is another entirely different thing to see in Morocco’s embrace of its Jewish diaspora a willingness to normalize its ties with Israel. As far as Rabat is concerned, normalization would airbrush decades of prolonged Israeli violations of the basic human rights of the Palestinian people, in addition to immediately lending Israel the regional legitimacy it so desperately seeks.
An agreement between Israel and an old nation-state such as Morocco would without a doubt boost Prime Minister Netanyahu’s popularity, restore his battered image, and most importantly give an unprecedented momentum to Israel’s attempts to extricate itself from the regional ostracism it has faced for the past seven decades.
Netanyahu sees Morocco as the jewel in his normalization crown, regardless of whether or not Rabat is interested. But as long as Morocco does not show real interest in normalizing ties with Israel, all American and Israeli reports attempting to paint a different picture are only part of a well-orchestrated campaign that aims to create a media perception about Israel’s supposedly increasing — and overblown — acceptability in the Arab world.