By TOI staff
14/09/2020 – Rabat and Jerusalem have no formal relations, but Israeli tourists are allowed into the country, which is home to the largest Jewish community in the Arab world
US President Donald Trump is looking toward following up the landmark normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with the introduction of direct flights between Israel and Morocco, Channel 12 news reported Saturday.
Morocco is considered an ally of the United States, and has long maintained informal but close intelligence ties with Israel.
Though the countries have no formal relations, Morocco has hosted Israeli leaders, and Israelis are allowed to visit there. Some 3,000 Jews live in Morocco, a fraction of the number from before the 1948 creation of Israel, but still the largest community in the Arab world.
The unsourced TV report said efforts to reach a breakthrough on Israel-Morocco ties some time ago had failed due to unspecified reasons, but the US was hoping the more limited gesture of direct flights was achievable.
The television report also said Washington was continuing to push for Oman and Sudan to forge diplomatic ties with Israel, as part of an effort to rack up as many accomplishments on the global stage as possible before the November 3 elections.
Last month Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said Rabat would not normalize relations with Israel. But days later he appeared to walk those statements back, saying his comments in opposition to warming ties were made in his capacity as leader of the Islamist PJD party, not as prime minister.
El Othmani added that he had just been reiterating a long-held position of his party. He did not comment further on the matter.
In August, quoting unnamed US officials, the Kan public broadcaster said Morocco was seen as a likely candidate to normalize ties as it already has tourism and trade ties with Israel. The report also cited the North African country’s protection of its small Jewish community.
Establishing formal diplomatic ties with Israel could also improve Morocco’s relations with the US. The report said that in exchange for doing so, Rabat was seeking American recognition of its sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara territory.
Morocco occupied large swaths of the Western Sahara in 1975 as Spain withdrew from the area and later annexed the territories in a move not recognized internationally.
The Times of Israel
Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali) | Photo: A view of Rabbat, Morocco (YouTube screenshot)