Western Sahara strengthens Morocco-Israel alliance
July 18, 2023
Israel's recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the region will have a positive impact on ties between Rabat and Jerusalem, as well as on the Abraham Accords
Since Morocco and Israel re-established relations in December 2020 after years of estrangement, the alliance between the two nations has deepened in a number of areas. Now, three years after that important milestone promoted by the United States in the framework of the Abraham Accords, the two countries are taking another step to strengthen this bilateral partnership, which will undoubtedly mark a turning point not only in relations between the two states, but also at the regional and international level.
Israel's recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara represents a historic event and a new diplomatic victory for the Kingdom. Moreover, thanks to this decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the two countries are consolidating their cooperation and laying the foundations for new agreements and alliances.
In fact, in response to this measure, Rabat is "in the process" of upgrading the status of its diplomatic office in Tel Aviv to that of an embassy, as a senior Moroccan government official revealed to the EFE news agency. Similarly, Israel is "positively examining" the opening of a consulate in Dakhla, a city located in Western Sahara where numerous countries - mostly African and Arab - have already established diplomatic delegations, reaffirming their support for Moroccan sovereignty in the region.
On several occasions, Morocco has stressed to its international partners that the Sahara issue is a fundamental pillar of its foreign policy in consolidating relations. As has been the case with other countries, Moroccan officials have been discussing the issue with their Israeli counterparts for months. As Axios reported in January, the Kingdom raised the Sahara issue repeatedly in several meetings with Israeli representatives over a period of months.
Finally, in order to boost cooperation in various fields, Israel has taken a clear position on Western Sahara. According to a senior Moroccan official quoted by Reuters, Jerusalem's decision adds to the momentum in Morocco's favour after Washington or Madrid, as well as other European capitals, announced their support for Morocco's plan for the region. The senior Moroccan official also made clear to the news agency that Israeli recognition would not affect Morocco's "principles" in advocating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Morocco hopes that the decision will boost Israeli investments in the territory," he concluded.
After the Moroccan Royal Cabinet announced Netanyahu's decision, several Israeli officials have expressed their satisfaction with the move. "This step will strengthen relations between the two countries and the two peoples," said Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who also assured that the move will force cooperation to deepen "regional peace and stability".
Meir Ben Shabbat, Israel's former national security chief, told i24NEWS that it was "important" that his country recognise Western Sahara as part of Morocco. "The decision taken by the prime minister was necessary to strengthen relations between the two countries," he explained. Ben Shabbat also stressed that the move would "stop the influence of Iran and its allies in the region and boost strategic ties between the two states". In recent months, senior Moroccan officials - including Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita - have warned about the interference and expansion of Iran and its allied groups such as Hezbollah in North Africa through its connections with the Polisario Front and Algeria. The head of Moroccan diplomacy has even accused Tehran of supporting the Sahrawi independence group politically and militarily.
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, who had previously advocated recognising Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara, also welcomed Netanyahu's decision, as did the US ambassador to Rabat, David T. Fischer. "I knew the day would come to celebrate that His Majesty King Mohammed VI would receive a letter from Prime Minister Netanyahu recognising Morocco's sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara," the diplomat wrote on his Twitter account.
The Abraham Accord Peace Institute welcomed "this historic decision" which "represents an unprecedented step towards expanding diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between the two friendly nations". Robert Greenway, director of the AAPI, indicated that on several occasions it has been made clear that recognising Moroccan sovereignty "is not only the right decision", but also "a strategic imperative that will contribute greatly to the advancement of relations between Morocco and Israel".
In addition to this important political and diplomatic step, Morocco and Israel continue to advance and consolidate their military alliance. Hours before announcing Jerusalem's recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced the appointment of Colonel Sharon Itach as the country's first military attaché in Morocco.