Israel reaffirms support for Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara

Israel reaffirms support for Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara
3 min read
22 June, 2022
However, it is not clear if Shaked's new statements refer to the UN-backed autonomy plan or if they grant Rabat an Israeli recognition of sovereignty over the territory. 
The Israeli state remained silent on the dispute over the territory, at least until March. [Getty]

Israel reaffirms its support for Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, said Ayelet Shaked, Israel's interior minister on Tuesday.

During her four-day trip to Rabat, Shaked met yesterday with Morocco's foreign minister Nasser Bouritta to discuss "the joint projects that the two countries will accomplish" as they move forward to strengthen their ties after normalisation.

Following their meeting, Shaked stated to the press that "Israel reaffirms its support for Morocco's sovereignty over the [Western] Sahara," according to Morocco's state-owned News Agency Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).

Late in 2020, Washington recognised Rabat's sovereignty over the disputed territory in exchange for the Moroccan kingdom's normalisation with Israel.

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Despite playing a vital role in convincing Rabat to publicly establish ties with Tel Aviv the Israeli state has been silent on the dispute over the territory until this past March.

During the Negev Summit in March, Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid said that Tel Aviv backs Morocco's autonomy plan in the disputed territory. He has also condemned "attempts to weaken the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Morocco."

In 2006, Morocco presented its autonomy plan regarding the territory, which is supposed to allow Sahrawis to run their affairs "democratically" through legislative, executive, and judicial bodies, while Rabat retains control over the defence and foreign relations.

For its part, the UN has backed the plan but the Polisario Front, which continues to call for an independent state for Sahrawis, rejected Rabat's proposal so far.

However, it is not clear if Shaked's new statements refer to the UN-backed autonomy plan or if they grant Rabat an Israeli recognition of its sovereignty over the territory. 

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The Moroccan agency did not articulate further the Israeli official statements. 

In an explanation of the difference between the two terms, Christiane Waked, a Spain-based political analyst specialising in MENA and Kurdish issues, told The New Arab, "Sovereignty is a political concept that refers to dominant power or supreme authority and of course controlling influence. (...) The recognition of sovereignty means the decision of a sovereign state to treat another entity as also being a sovereign state."

In this case, the recognition of Rabat's sovereignty over the territory means legitimising Morocco's control over the disputed territory.

However, Waked said that the Moroccan media have been using the terms "recognition," "sovereignty" and "autonomy plan" in abundance these past few years.

Late in May, responding to the question regarding his country's support of the kingdom's sovereignty over Western Sahara, David Govrin, the head of the Israeli office in Rabat, said "[Israel's position] will be discussed as soon as possible, between the leaders of the two countries."