The foreign ministers of Israel and Morocco are taking another step towards strengthening ties between the two countries, signing three agreements less than a year after agreeing to normalize relations.
Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Nasser Bourita, his Moroccan counterpart, on Wednesday signed an air service agreement between the Kingdom of North Africa and the State of Israel and a cooperation agreement in the fields of culture, sport and youth.
They also signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a political consultation mechanism between the foreign ministries of their countries.
It was not immediately clear what such a memorandum would encompass, but it seemed to fit into the larger conception of face-to-face diplomacy during Lapid’s two-day visit to Morocco.
The trip will be crowned Thursday with the inauguration of Israel’s liaison mission in Rabat, the capital.
Israel and Morocco agreed in December to resume diplomatic relations and restart direct flights under a deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump.
As part of the deal, Washington also recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, a movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.
The Moroccan foreign minister told his visiting Israeli counterpart that their countries’ newly strengthened relations would bring economic benefits, and urged him to work for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Our ties with Israel are unlike any other,” Bourita said Wednesday, alongside his Israeli counterpart Lapid, saying Morocco’s Jewish heritage was an essential component of its identity.
Regarding the Palestinians, Bourita said: “It is necessary to restore confidence between all parties… and refrain from fueling tensions in order to pave the way for a political solution based on the two-state solution.
MAE Bourita and Mr. @yairlapid today signed a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of political consultation mechanisms as well as two agreements in the fields of culture, youth, sports and air service. pic.twitter.com/ut0DfEYlcb
– Moroccan diplomacy 🇲🇦 (@Marocdiplo_EN) August 11, 2021
“Innovation and opportunities”
Lapid’s visit is the first to the country of an Israeli minister since 2003, and the first such meeting in Morocco since the “Abraham Accords” negotiated by the United States with four Arab states: the United Arab Emirates , Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Palestinian officials have criticized the normalization agreements, saying Arab countries have rolled back the cause of peace and are perpetuating the Israeli occupation by dropping a long-standing demand that Israel cede land to a Palestinian state before it. cannot be recognized.
A statement from Israel’s Foreign Minister said on Wednesday that the agreements “will bring innovations and opportunities to our countries for the benefit of our children – and their children – for years to come.”
Israel and Morocco are teaching children “the power of hope” in a world “that has shrunk,” according to Lapid’s statement.
He is expected to become prime minister in 2023 under Israel’s eight-party coalition government.
Israel and Morocco share a long history of formal and informal ties. Many Israelis have a lineage stretching back to Morocco, which is still home to a small community of several thousand Jews.
Israeli Minister of Labor and Welfare Meir Cohen, who was part of the delegation, was born in Essaouira, on the Atlantic coast.
“For him, it is a homecoming,” Lapid said in his statement, and in the future Israelis “will not travel here as tourists, they will travel as a family, to explore their heritage and their memories” .
Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. The two countries maintained informal relations, with thousands of Israelis surrendering in Morocco every year.
The Biden administration has said it will reconsider the previous administration’s decision to recognize Morocco’s long-contested claim to Western Sahara. The annexation of the region in 1975 is not recognized by the United Nations.
The visit came as Israel shows further evidence of the progress of the agreements. A senior Bahraini official is visiting Israel this week, where he met an Israeli general and other officials.
Israel and the Gulf countries had quietly improved their relations for years as they came to view Iran as a common threat.