AAPI Monthly Newsletters
AAPI Newsletter: December 2022
January 03, 2023
The final month of 2022 closed an amazing year for the Abraham Accords in fine style. On the diplomatic front, Israeli President Isaac Herzog became the first Israeli head of state to make an official visit to Bahrain, where he met with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, before visiting Abu Dhabi, where he met with the UAE’s President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. On the economic front, the United Arab Emirates and Israel officially ratified their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that will remove or reduce tariffs on 96% of goods traded between the nations. Numerous high-profile events related to the Accords occurred, as well as several people-to-people delegations between Accords countries. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah was also publicly celebrated across the Accords member nations. Finally, December saw the celebration of the two-year anniversary of Morocco-Israel normalization.
This month's newsletter contains another edition of our Abraham Accords in Depth section, highlighting the potential for cooperation in various areas. This month, to celebrate the two-year anniversary of Israel’s normalization with Morocco, we highlight a recent article by Meir Ben Shabbat, former Head of the Israeli National Security Council and National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel during the signing of the Accords, and Deputy Director for Israel at the Abraham Accords Peace Institute David Aaronson.
Abraham Accords in Depth: Two Years of Peace with Morocco: Time to Advance Tangible Projects and Recognize Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara
The remarkable achievements of the Moroccan national team in the FIFA World Cup 2022 and its qualifying to the semifinals have put the country of the Maghreb in the headlines. Overnight the team has become the undisputed representative of the Arab world in its battle for the coveted trophy; disappointment at the Moroccan players' identifying with the Palestinians did not taint the joy felt by the team's fans.
Only two years have passed since ties between the two countries have been restored, but it seems as if these were never severed in the first place. In regard to the ongoing struggle for world order and the crises raging through world economies, Israel and Morocco can offer solutions that will help in dealing with current challenges. These solutions may bring the relative advantage of each country to light, as well as the partnership between them. Today, more than ever, the time is right for another step up in the ties that have developed between Jerusalem and Rabat.
The historic agreement, mediated by the Trump administration, was part of the Abraham Accords. As part of the Accords, Morocco became the fourth Arab country to establish ties with the State of Israel within several months. The triple declaration changed the map beyond recognition and created a new era between the two countries. Two decades earlier, in 2000, Morocco severed its ties with Israel following the Second Intifada. And surely, the strong ties remain an integral part of the heritage of the two nations.
A Small Community, A Long Tradition
The history of the Jewish people in Morocco is deep; spanning more than a thousand years. It is believed that Jews first arrived in Morocco after the destruction of the Second Temple. Over many centuries, Morocco welcomed and accepted many Jewish scholars from Spain and its surroundings, and it itself became a stronghold of Jewish life, despite religious persecutions and severe hardships that befell the Jews. The city of Essaouira even set a precedent in the Muslim world, when it became the only city with a Jewish majority.
Throughout the generations, Jews immigrated from Morocco to Israel. Immigrants from Morocco took part in the 19th-century revival of the Jewish settlement and in the development of many cities, including Jaffa, Haifa, Tiberias, and Jerusalem. In the first decades after the establishment of the State of Israel, the majority of Moroccan Jews immigrated to Israel, while a small Jewish community remained in Morocco. Most Moroccan Jews live in Casablanca, with a small minority in Marrakesh. The community is strict about maintaining community customs. With the encouragement of the King of Morocco, projects were initiated for the comprehensive renovation of Jewish cemeteries and neighborhoods in the Jewish quarter where Jews lived.
With the renewal of ties, following the Abraham Accords, direct flights operate between Tel Aviv, Casablanca, and Marrakesh. Morocco has become a popular tourist destination for Israelis. Many agreements were signed between government ministries, academic institutions, companies and organizations in both countries. The sense of collaboration and satisfaction with the renewal of ties does not characterize only the leadership echelon – but is clearly evident on Moroccan streets and in the general attitude towards Israelis.
Optimism is on the Rise
Now, two years after the renewal of ties and after the infrastructure has been established, the time has come to maximize the great potential found in the collaboration between the two countries. Morocco and Israel serve as gateways to the Mediterranean Sea, from the west and the east. Israel, Morocco, and Sudan can cooperate in providing solutions to the global food crisis, which was exacerbated following the war in Ukraine. Even though Sudan has fertile land needed to become an alternative exporter of wheat, it lacks the know-how and tools to do so.
Israel and Morocco can fill in the gap. They can bring Israeli know-how in agritech to Africa, as well as phosphates from Morocco, effecting a change that will benefit the nations of the region. Moreover, due to the global energy crisis and restrictions on gas imports from Russia, regional cooperation could provide alternative solutions. Projects such as the natural gas pipeline between Nigeria and Morocco, the gas pipeline from Israel to Europe, and the oil pipeline from the Gulf to Europe will become even more relevant than ever before. This will result in the formation of jobs in both countries, as well as revenues that will boost their economies.
Alongside governmental collaborations and business opportunities, it is vital to deepen the ties between the citizens of both countries. Morocco recently approved the easing of the entry procedure for Israelis via an electronic visa, and Israel should take similar steps to encourage tourism from Morocco to Israel. In addition, Israel must officially recognize Morocco's sovereignty in Western Sahara. This is a necessary step, after many countries around the world, including the US, have done so. The leadership in Morocco also expects this.
As far as Israel is concerned, in addition to this step contributing to the promotion of ties with Morocco, it will also weaken the Polisario Front, supported by Iran and Hezbollah. Reflecting on the achievements of the last two years, one's heart expands and optimism is rising. This is the outset of a marvelous friendship. Plenty of opportunities lie ahead of us that will bring prosperity and ensure that the peace we have with Morocco will continue to be an example and model for all countries in the region.
Note: Trade data published by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics is published monthly for the preceding month. SOURCE: Israel Central Bureau of Statistics
Notable developments in December 2022:
Below you can find a timeline of notable Abraham Accords-related events that occurred in the month of December 2022:
December 2022: Moroccan professor Dris Bouyahya and his students visited Israel as part of a cultural exchange made possible by the Abraham Accords.
December 2022: According to reports, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco have held meetings to discuss setting up a common cyber defense platform.
December 2022: Star Israeli chef Eyal Shani, who has opened restaurants in New York, Singapore, and London, is opening a restaurant in Dubai, his first in the region outside of Israel.
December 1, 2022: An event celebrating UAE’s National Day took place in Tel Aviv
December 1, 2022: The University of Haifa hosted more than 50 religious figures and academics as part of an international interfaith conference. The JCM (Jews, Christians, Muslims) Conference included participants from Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Turkey, Albania, Greece, England, Ireland and Germany.
December 1, 2022: A group called ‘Influencing Peace, made up of prominent Jewish and Arab influencers and content creators in the fields of music, sport, fashion, science and comedy, visited Morocco on a trip organized by Israel’s Foreign and Regional Cooperation Ministries to celebrate two years since Israel-Morocco normalization. The group, which collectively has more than 45 million followers, spent time engaging with Moroccan content creators, with both parties documenting the encounters for their followers.
December 4, 2022: Israeli President Isaac Herzog became the first Israeli head of state to make an official visit to Bahrain. Herzog was welcomed to Manama by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousif Al Jalahma before meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa at the Al-Qudaibiya Palace. During his visit, President Herzog also met with representatives of Bahrain’s Jewish community.
December 4, 2022: Following his historic visit to Bahrain earlier in the day, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog visited Abu Dhabi, where he met with the UAE’s President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. He then delivered a keynote speech at the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which brought together national and industry leaders to discuss collective space exploration challenges and opportunities.
December 5, 2022: The Abu Dhabi-based Emirati-Israeli venture builder Dana Global announced a new partnership agreement with Abu-Dhabi-based agritech investor Silal. As part of the agreement, Silal is inviting female-led agritech startups from Israel, the Middle East and North Africa to take part in a pilot program to bring innovative agritech solutions to the United Arab Emirates, with the goal of helping address the major challenge of food insecurity.
December 5-7, 2022: Experts from Israel and six Arab countries met in Rabat for a “Conference on Education and Coexistence,” intended to strengthen regional cooperation. The event was organized as part of a partnership between the Atlantic Council and the Jeffrey M. Talpins Foundation.
December 6, 2022: AIPAC and its charitable affiliate American Israel Education Foundation hosted the “Abraham Accords Interparliamentary Strategic Dialogue”. The virtual event featured participation from Senators. James Lankford (R-OK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), co-chairs of the Senate and House Abraham Accords caucuses, representatives from 13 European Union countries, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Canada. The dialogue focused on promoting projects related to the Abraham Accords.
December 7, 2022: Israel’s NewMed Energy and its Gibraltar-based partner Adarco Energy announced that they had reached an oil and gas exploration agreement with the Moroccan government. NewMed Energy and Adarco will each own a 37.5% stake in the enterprise, with Morocco owning the remaining 25%. The exploration will occur off of Morocco’s Atlantic coast
December 7, 2022: Individuals from approximately 30 countries attended the “Investors Roundtable Tel Aviv”, a program of the Abrahamic Business Circle.
December 9, 2022: World leaders, ambassadors, diplomats, entrepreneurs, lawmakers, academics, and clergy from over thirty countries participated in the First Annual “Abraham Accords Global Leadership Summit” in Rome, an event focused onew ways to increase peace and tolerance in the spirit of the Abraham Accords.
December 9, 2022: The Bahraini, Emirati, Moroccan, and Israeli embassies to the United Kingdom played a friendly soccer tournament in London.
December 10, 2022: A group of 30 young people, half of them Israelis and half Moroccans, gathered in the Israeli Druze town of Isfiya to watch the World Cup Quarterfinal between Morocco and Portugal.
December 11, 2022: The United Arab Emirates and Israel officially ratified their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. The agreement, which was first signed in May, will remove or reduce tariffs on 96% of goods traded between the nations.
December 12, 2022: Dubai’s Jewish community opened the first-ever kosher supermarket in the Gulf.
December 12, 2022: The Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union hosted an event celebrating the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords.
December 13, 2022: Dubai International Chamber of Commerce officially inaugurated its Tel Aviv representative office.
December 14, 2022: At the initiative of the German Permanent Representative in Geneva, the Heads of Missions of the Abraham Accords member states planted a tree as a symbol of peace and coexistence.
December 14, 2022: According to regulatory filings, a consortium led by Abu Dhabi state holding firm ADQ is in advanced negotiations to acquire a controlling stake in Israeli financial firm Phoenix Group for more than $800 million. The deal still must undergo regulatory approval.
December 18, 2022: A group of 20 Israeli teens departed for Bahrain as part of the first-ever youth delegation to promote partnerships between the two countries. The week-long mission is an initiative of the PICO Kids Ambassadors program, designed to promote collaboration between students in addressing specific challenges facing the international community.
December 18-26, 2022: The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah was celebrated across the Accords countries, with notable public displays.
December 19, 2022: The European Leadership Network (ELNET) hosted a conference entitled “The Abraham Accords and Europe: New Opportunities in a Changing World” that examined how to involve Europe in deepening the reach and potential of the Accords. AAPI’s Executive Director participated in the conference and urged European countries to look to Abraham Accords countries to address energy and food security challenges arising from the Russia-Ukraine war.
December 20, 2022: A senior US official stated that Washington plans a meeting “probably in the first quarter” of 2023, to be attended by foreign ministers from the Negev Forum.
December 20, 2022: Israel’s Philharmonic Orchestra performed in Abu Dhabi, the first time the orchestra performed in an Arab country since Egypt hosted it in Cairo in 1945. The concert, which opened with Israel’s national anthem, was attended by Michal Herzog, wife of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, as a guest of honor. The UAE's Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Emirati Culture and Youth Minister Noura Al Kaabi also attended.
December 23, 2022: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Fiscal Year 2023 that President Biden signed in to law included provisions mirroring the DEFEND (Deterring Enemy Forces and Enabling National Defenses) Act, the first bill passed by the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus. The DEFEND Act directs the Secretary of Defense to strategize with U.S. partners in the Middle East and establish an integrated air and missile defense architecture to combat the malign threat from Iran and its proxies.
December 24, 2022: A Bahrain-based MMA promotion announced that it will hold a one-time event in Tel Aviv pitting Bahraini and Israeli fighters against mixed martial artists from across the globe. The event will be held under the "Fighting for Peace" tagline and occur on March 3, 2023.
December 27, 2022: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog sent a letter to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan People on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of Israel-Morocco normalization. The letter expressed “gratitude and appreciation” for providing a “safe haven” for Moroccan Jews during the Holocaust.