Israel Completes Historic Flight To Morocco

A screen grab from a handout video released by the US embassy in Morocco shows US President's advisor Jared Kushner (L) and Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat leaving the plane upon landing, in Moroco's capital Rabat, on December 22, 2020, on the first Israel-Morocco direct commercial flight, marking the latest US-brokered diplomatic normalisation deal between the Jewish state and an Arab country. US EMBASSY IN MOROCCO / AFP
A screengrab from a handout video released by the US embassy in Morocco shows US President’s advisor Jared Kushner (L) and Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat leaving the plane upon landing, in Morocco’s capital Rabat, on December 22, 2020. US EMBASSY IN MOROCCO / AFP

 

The first Israel-Morocco direct commercial flight landed in the North African kingdom Tuesday to mark the latest US-brokered diplomatic normalisation deal between the Jewish state and an Arab country.

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner was on board along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat.

The US-Israeli delegation was welcomed at the airport by Moroccan officials, ahead of a programme that includes a meeting with King Mohammed VI at the royal palace, and a visit to the grave of Mohammed V.

The trip aimed to showcase the Trump administration’s achievements in Middle East diplomacy, weeks before Trump is replaced at the White House by President-elect Joe Biden.

Morocco became the third Arab state this year, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals, while Sudan has pledged to follow suit.

READ ALSO: Israeli PM Hails ‘Historic’ Morocco Normalisation Agreement

Speaking at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport before his departure, Kushner said Israel’s recent string of breakthrough deals marked a step towards a more normal co-existence between Jews and Muslims.

“The state we have lived in for the last 75 years, where Jews and Muslims have been separated, is not a natural state,” he said before getting on the plane which was painted with the Hebrew, Arabic and English words for “peace”.

Both sides expected to sign agreements paving the way for direct air links, and on water management, connecting their financial systems and on a visa waver arrangement for diplomats, said an Israeli official source.

Morocco has North Africa’s largest Jewish community of about 3,000 people, and Israel is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.

Up to now, up to 70,000 Israeli tourists a year have visited Morocco, but they have had to travel via third countries.

Western Sahara

As part of the Morocco-Israel deal unveiled earlier this month, Trump fulfilled a decades-old goal of Rabat by backing its contested sovereignty in the disputed region of Western Sahara.

The move infuriated the Algerian-backed pro-independence Polisario Front, which controls about one fifth of the desert territory that was once a Spanish colony.

Negotiations included pledges to open a US consulate in Western Sahara, and for US investment which Moroccan media described as “colossal”.

Israel and Morocco are meanwhile due to reopen diplomatic offices.

Morocco closed its liaison office in Tel Aviv in 2000, at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Mohammed VI has said Morocco will remain an advocate for the Palestinians.

Alongside the announcement of the resumption of relations with Israel on December 10, the king assured Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of Morocco’s “continued and sustained commitment to the just Palestinian cause”.

But the Palestinians — like the Polisario — have cried foul and condemned the normalisation announcement between Rabat and the Jewish state.

Two pro-Palestinian demonstrations were banned last week in Rabat, and about 30 groups and far-left parties Tuesday denounced the visit by the “Zionist delegation”, demanding Morocco “resist normalisation”.

‘Shared history’

Morocco has sought to temper the anger by insisting that relations with Israel are not new.

“The new agreement is merely the formalisation of a de facto partnership between Morocco and Israel dating back 60 years,” said Moroccan media boss Ahmed Charai.

“The two states have assisted each other vitally for decades,” Charai wrote, pointing to security cooperation in Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War and “quiet Moroccan diplomacy” that helped foster peace between Egypt and Israel.

Morocco is home to North Africa’s largest Jewish community, which dates back to ancient times and grew with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by Catholic kings from 1492.

It reached about 250,000 in the late 1940s, 10 percent of the national population, but many Jews left after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Under the rule of King Mohammed, several programmes have been launched to rehabilitate old Jewish districts, cemeteries and synagogues.

 

AFP

UN Security Council, Kushner To Meet Over Trump’s Mideast Plan

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is on the short-list of potential candidates for the president’s next chief of staff, US media said on December 13, 2018.  AFP

 

The United States has requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting Thursday for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to present the administration’s new Mideast peace plan, diplomatic sources told AFP Monday.

He intends to set forth the plan that Washington unveiled last week and to listen to the position of the council’s other 14 members, the sources said.

The meeting would take place several days before Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas comes to the United Nations — he is expected February 11 — to express opposition to the US plan and to demand adherence to international law.

AFP

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Israeli and U.S. officials provided no information on what was to be discussed and there are no plans for Kushner to speak to the media or take any questions, maintaining the circumspect profile he has established since Trump took office.

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His lawyer however says the post does not breach anti-nepotism laws.

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He will also step down as publisher of the New York Observer newspaper in order to comply with ethics laws.

In his new role as a Senior White House Adviser, Mr Kushner will initially focus on trade policy and the middle east.

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Trump said Lewandowski did “a great job” but “it’s time now for a different kind of campaign.”

Lewandoski said that he did not know why he was being fired, and reason for the decision by the Trump campaign is still not clear while speaking with the media later on Monday.

Lewandoski leaves, just as Trump faces strong resistance from senior members of the Republican Party, over his strident tone, hard line immigration policy, and falling poll numbers.

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