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Moroccan Foreign Minister praises normalisation in Israeli TV interview amid criticism at home

Nasser Bourita said ties with Israel were "very important" [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 December, 2020

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Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, has given an interview to Israeli TV, saying that normalisation with Israel was part of a desire to maintain good relations with Jewish people generally.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has praised his country’s decision to normalise relations with Israel in an interview with the state-run Israeli TV channel Kan-11 on Friday.

Bourita said that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI had decided to establish diplomatic relations with Israel because he viewed relations with Jewish people generally, and Israel in particular, to be “very important”.

Bourita added that the Moroccan king maintained a “special relationship” with Israelis of Moroccan origin, saying that celebrations which had broken out in Israel after the Moroccan normalization announcement showed this.

The Moroccan foreign minister also said that his country would have “full” diplomatic relations with Israel and that these would be established quickly.

He told Kan 11 that flights between Morocco and Israel would be starting very soon and that Israeli liaison offices in Rabat, which were closed in 2000 amid Israel’s brutal suppression of the second Palestinian intifada, would reopen.

Bourita said that Moroccan political forces had “responded positively” to the normalisation of relations with Israel.

However, on Friday the youth wing of Morocco’s ruling Justice and Development Party condemned the government’s decision to normalise ties with Israel, saying that “the issue of Palestine is an integral part of the conscience and struggle of the entire Moroccan people”.

The Moroccan National Action Group for Palestine also denounced the government’s decision, saying that it “deviated from the position of the Moroccan nation, which rejects normalization, the marginalization of the Palestinian issue, and the Deal of the Century”.

Moroccan religious leaders have also spoken out against the deal.

Morocco announced on Thursday that it would normalise ties with Israel after the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump said it would recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

Bourita told Kan-11 that he did not expect US President-elect Joe Biden to rescind Trump’s decision.

In earlier comments, he denied that US recognition of Morocco’s control over Western Sahara was a reward for Morocco normalizing ties with Israel.

Although Morocco and Israel did not have formal diplomatic ties before Thursday’s announcement, informal relations have existed for decades.

Israeli experts are believed to have helped Morocco build the heavily fortified, 2,700 kilometre ‘berm’ sand wall in Western Sahara in the 1980s, which was designed to keep guerrilla fighters from the pro-independence Polisario movement out of Moroccan-controlled territory.

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