Women Elected Mayors In Morocco’s Leading Cities

A photo combination of Fatima Zahra Mansouri, Nabila Rmili and Asmaa Rhlalou

 

Morocco’s capital Rabat elected a woman as mayor for the first time on Friday, meaning three of the kingdom’s main cities are led by women following elections earlier this month.

“It’s a historical day for the city of lights,” Asmaa Rhlalou, 52, said after Rabat’s municipal council chose her as mayor of the city of 550,000 people.

The vote follows nationwide parliamentary, regional and municipal polls on September 8.

Rhlalou’s party, the National Rally of Independents (RNI), thrashed long-ruling Islamists nationally to put its leader, businessman Aziz Akhannouch, in line to lead a new government.

On Monday, Nabila Rmili — another RNI member — was elected as mayor of Casablanca, Morocco’s commercial capital and biggest city with 3.5 million residents.

READ ALSO: Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

And in tourist hotspot Marrakech, Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) candidate Fatima Zahra Mansouri returned at the age of 45 to the mayor’s office which she had occupied from 2009 to 2015.

The PAM came second in this month’s parliamentary elections and third in regional polls. The party was founded by Fouad Ali El Himma, now an advisor to King Mohammed VI.

Prime minister-designate Akhannouch was also elected Friday as mayor of seaside town Agadir, his stronghold where he was the only candidate.

AFP

Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With ‘Hostile’ Morocco

Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP
Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra holds a press conference in the capital Algiers, on August 24, 2021. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Tuesday that his country has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco due to “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The countries have long accused one another of backing opposition movements as proxies, with Algeria’s support for separatists in the disputed region of Western Sahara a particular bone of contention for Morocco.

“Algeria has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco from today,” Lamamra announced during a press conference.

“History has shown… Morocco has never stopped carrying out hostile actions against Algeria,” he added.

READ ALSO: Zambia Swears In New President

There was no immediate reaction from Rabat to the announcement.

Algiers’s move came following a review of bilateral relations announced last week as it alleged Rabat was complicit in deadly forest fires that ravaged the country’s north.

Lamamra accused Morocco’s leaders of “responsibility for repeated crises” and behaviour that has “led to conflict instead of integration” in North Africa.

Late last month, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI deplored the tensions between the two countries, and invited Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune “to make wisdom prevail” and “to work in unison for the development of relations” between the two countries.

‘Provocation’

But Algeria’s forest fires, which broke out on August 9 amid a blistering heatwave, burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest and killed at least 90 people, including more than 30 soldiers, further stoking tensions.

While critics say Algerian authorities failed to prepare for the blazes, Tebboune declared most of the fires were of “criminal” origin.

Algerian authorities have blamed the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie extending along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital.

Algiers has accused Rabat of backing the separatists.

“The Moroccan provocation reached its climax when a Moroccan delegate to the United Nations demanded the independence of the people of the Kabylie region,” Lamamra said Tuesday.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination in that region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Algerian authorities have also accused the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in lynching a man falsely accused of arson during the recent forest fires, an incident that sparked outrage.

Algeria last week accused Morocco of supporting the group, which it classifies as a “terrorist organisation”.

‘Bad decision’

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency had said.

It also said there would be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

Mohamed, a Moroccan bus driver, called Algeria’s latest move “a bad decision”.

“It’s like cutting ties with your next-door neighbour,” he told AFP.

The two North African countries along with Tunisia were united, he added, saying “there are no differences, this happens between governments”.

Algeria’s foreign minister also accused Morocco of leading “a media war… against Algeria, its people and its leaders”.

But Lamamra also said consular assistance to citizens of both countries would not be affected.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

A normalisation deal between Morocco and Israel in December triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord.

Lamamra on Tuesday accused the Israeli foreign minister of “senseless accusations and veiled threats” after Yair Lapid expressed “worries about the role played by Algeria in the region”.

On his first visit to Morocco since the countries normalised ties, Lapid said his concerns were based on fears Algeria was “getting close to Iran”, as well as “the campaign it waged against the admission of Israel as an observer member of the African Union”.

 

AFP

Algeria To Review Relations With Morocco After Forest Fires

Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP
Villagers gather as smoke billows from a fire in the forested hills of the Kabylie region, east of the Algerian capital Algiers, on August 12, 2021. Ryad KRAMDI / AFP

 

Algeria will review its relations with Morocco after accusing it of complicity in deadly forest fires, a presidency statement said Wednesday, in the latest tensions between the North African neighbours.

At least 90 people, including 33 soldiers, were killed in dozens of forest fires that broke out amid a blistering heatwave on August 9 across swathes of northern Algeria.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said most of the fires were “criminal” in origin.

The decision to review relations with Rabat was made during an extraordinary meeting of the country’s security council, chaired by Tebboune and dedicated to evaluating the situation after the fires.

READ ALSO: Algeria Combats Wildfires, Mourns Victims

“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency statement said.

It said there would also be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco.

The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994.

The statement did not clarify what the review might mean.

Algeria’s DGSN security agency said investigations had discovered “a criminal network, classed as a terrorist organisation” as being behind the fires, according to the “admission of arrested members”.

Algerian authorities point the finger for the fires at the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie, which extends along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital Algiers.

Fraught ties

The authorities also accuse the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in the lynching of a man falsely accused of arson, an incident that sparked outrage. The mob also set the victim on fire.

Authorities have arrested 61 people over the incident.

Some of the suspects have confessed to being members of the MAK, according to confessions broadcast on Algerian television.

Algiers has also accused the Islamist-inspired Rachad movement of involvement.

“The high security council has decided… to intensify the efforts of the security services to arrest the rest of the individuals involved in the two crimes, as well as all members of the two terrorist movements that threaten public security and national unity,” according to the presidency statement.

It said it aimed for their “total eradication, particularly the MAK, which receives the support and aid of foreign parties… Morocco and the Zionist entity”, the statement added, referring to Israel.

The Paris-based MAK told AFP it rejected the accusations.

Algiers classified both the MAK and Rachad as “terrorist organisations” in May.

Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador in Morocco for consultations.

The move came after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination for Algeria’s Kabylie region.

At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”.

Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara.

Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there.

Algeria is among several Mediterranean countries that have seen forest fires in recent weeks, including Morocco.

The blazes in Algeria burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest, with emergency services on Wednesday declaring all the fires had been extinguished.

Critics say the authorities failed to prepare for the blazes.

AFP

Nonuplets: Malian Woman Gives Birth To 9 Babies 

One of nine babies kept in incubators, a day after the Malian woman at the clinic in the western Moroccan city of Casablanca delivered, on May 5, 2021. PHOTO: CASABLANCA, MOROCCO

 

A Malian woman who gave birth to nonuplets in Morocco is “doing well” and her nine babies are being treated in incubators because of their weight, the Moroccan clinic where she delivered said Wednesday.

Such a case of multiple births is “extremely rare, it’s exceptional”, said Professor Youssef Alaoui, medical director of the Ain Borja clinic in the city of Casablanca.

The verified world record for the most living births is eight, born to an American woman, Nadya Suleman, nicknamed “Octomum”, in 2009 when she was 33.

Alaoui said the 25-year-old Malian mother, Halima Cisse, a woman from the north of the poor West African state, was “doing well”.

READ ALSO: India’s COVID-19 Cases Worsen As 3,980 Die In 24Hrs

Her premature babies, weighing only between 500 grams and one kilogram (1.1 and 2.2 pounds), would be looked after “for two to three months” in incubators, Alaoui added.

Cisse was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted and medical staff had managed to extend her term to 30 weeks, according to Alaoui, until contractions started.

A medical team of 10 doctors assisted by 25 paramedics was mobilised for the deliveries of the five baby girls and four boys.

Mali’s government flew Cisse to Morocco for better care on March 30. She was initially believed, after ultrasounds, to have been carrying septuplets.

Cases of women successfully carrying septuplets to term are rare — and nonuplets even rarer.

Mali’s health ministry said Cisse had given birth Tuesday by Caesarean section.

Doctors had been concerned about Cisse’s health, according to Malian press reports, as well as her babies’ chances of survival.

Mali’s Health Minister Fanta Siby congratulated “the medical teams of Mali and Morocco, whose professionalism is at the origin of the happy outcome of this pregnancy”.

AFP

Morocco, Ivory Coast Book Places In Africa Cup Of Nations

 

 

 

Morocco and the Ivory Coast secured places at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in contrasting ways Friday, as they raised the number of finalists to 16 with eight more places up for grabs. 

The Moroccans booked an 18th appearance after Group E rivals Burundi and the Central African Republic drew 2-2 in Bujumbura, where the visitors surrendered a two-goal matchday 5 lead.

That result assured the former champions of a top-two finish four hours before they play Mauritania in Nouakchott later Friday.

Morocco have 10 points, Burundi and Mauritania five each and the Central African Republic four in the section.

Ivory Coast trounced Niger 3-0 in Niamey to clinch a Group K place, with Ethiopia and Madagascar in contention for the other.

Tottenham Hotspur full-back Serge Aurier starred for the Elephants, scoring the first goal and creating the others for Max Gradel and Wilfried Kanon.

Congo needed maximum points against Senegal in Brazzaville to qualify from Group I but had to settle for a 0-0 draw and the satisfaction of ending the 100 per cent record of Sadio Mane and his Teranga Lions.

The Congolese have a two-point lead over Guinea-Bissau, who beat Eswatini 3-1 in Manzini, and they clash in Bissau Tuesday to decide who finishes runners-up behind Senegal and goes to Cameroon.

-AFP

Morocco Cuts Contacts With German Embassy 

Morocco Rejoins African Union
Flag of Morocco

 

Morocco has suspended contacts with the German embassy, the foreign minister announced in a letter published late Monday, in what officials said was a protest over Berlin’s stance on the Western Sahara dispute.

In the letter addressed to the prime minister and published by Moroccan media, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the decision to suspend dealings with the embassy as well as German cultural organisations was taken in response to “deep misunderstandings” on “issues fundamental for Morocco”.

“Morocco wishes to preserve its relationship with Germany but this is a form of warning expressing unease over many issues,” a senior foreign ministry official told AFP late Monday.

“There will be no contact until we have received answers to the various questions we have posed.”

READ ALSO: Boko Haram ‘Directly Targeted’ Aid Facilities In Borno, Says UN

Morocco was angered by German criticism of former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for moves by Rabat to normalise its relations with Israel, the official said.

It was also dismayed that it was kept out of discussions on Libya’s political future at a congress in Berlin in January 2020.

Morocco insists its claim to sovereignty over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara is non-negotiable, despite the rival claims of the pro-independence Polisario Front, with which it fought a 1975-91 war.

Morocco has had generally good relations with Germany, which is a major donor.

Three months ago the foreign minister hailed the “excellence of bilateral cooperation” after Berlin released 1.387 billion euros in support for Moroccan financial reforms and coronavirus countermeasures.

AFP

Morocco Seizes 9.5 Tonnes Of Cannabis In Refrigerated Truck

Morocco Rejoins African Union

 

Around 9.5 tonnes of cannabis resin was seized from a refrigerated lorry near Morocco’s capital Rabat, the national security service said Monday.

A police operation intercepted “a refrigerated lorry carrying 380 bales of around 9.5 tonnes of the drug, hidden among a cargo of foodstuffs,” Morocco’s DGSN security service said.

The driver of the vehicle was arrested in possession of cash equivalent to $3,600, it added.

It is the latest in a string of large-scale seizures of cannabis.

Nearly 9.2 tonnes of cannabis resin hidden in bales buried in sand were seized in the southwest, the DGSN announced in early February.

In December, it announced the seizure of over a tonne of cannabis transported on the backs of a herd of unaccompanied camels in the south.

That came a day after the discovery of nearly two tonnes of resin in the vicinity of Laayoune, in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.

Morocco is one of the world’s biggest cannabis producers, although the authorities say they are cracking down on the illegal trade.

They seized nearly 180 tonnes of the drug in 2019.

-AFP

24 Killed In Morocco Underground Factory Flood

File photo: Morocco map.

 

 

At least 24 people died after heavy rain flooded an illegal underground textile workshop in a private house in Morocco’s port of Tangiers, the state news agency reported Monday.

Rescue workers recovered 24 bodies from the property and rescued 10 survivors who were taken to hospital, the MAP agency said citing local authorities. A search of the premises was continuing.

Local media outlets indicated at least some of the victims may have been electrocuted as the incoming water interfered with power facilities, but there was no immediate confirmation of those reports.

Morocco has experienced heavy rains in recent weeks, after a long period of drought.

In early January, the inclement weather caused several dilapidated buildings to collapse in Casablanca, the country’s economic capital, causing at least four deaths, according to local media.

Poorly maintained drainage systems often exacerbate flooding in cities.

Fifty people died in floods in 2014 caused by heavy rains in the south of Morocco.

Nearly 2,200 Migrants Died Trying To Reach Europe In 2020- NGO

 

 

Nearly 2,200 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea this year, the vast majority of them on their way to the Canary Islands, a migrant rights group said Tuesday.

Migrants arrivals in the archipelago have increased this year as they looked for alternative routes to reach Europe due to increased patrolling off the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain, posing a logistical strain for authorities in the Canaries.

A total of 2,170 migrants perished in attempts to get to Spain by boat this year, compared to 893 in 2019, according to a report by the non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras, which monitors migratory flows.

Eighty-five percent of this year’s deaths, or 1,851, took place during 45 shipwrecks on the route to the Canary Islands, according to the report.

The shortest route to the islands is more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous because of the strong currents in the Atlantic.

Helena Maleno, an activist with the NGO, blamed the rise in deaths this year on the greater distance needed to travel to the Canaries and the “dismantlement of rescue services”.

She also blamed a “lack of coordination” between the nations which operate rescue services in the region — Spain, Mauritania, Senegal and Morocco — which leads to delays in launching operations.

 

 

Spanish interior ministry figures show that between January 1 and November 30, a total of 19,566 people landed on the Atlantic archipelago, compared with just 1,993 a year earlier.

The surge in arrivals filled migrant reception centres on the Canaries, forcing thousands of migrants to live in a makeshift tent camp on a pier in the island of Gran Canaria last month.

They were eventually transferred to a military camp and hotels on the island.

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

UNESCO Lists Couscous As Intangible World Heritage

Lamb Couscous.

 

Couscous, the Berber dish beloved across northern Africa’s Maghreb region and beyond, Wednesday joined the UN list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

The countries that submitted the listing to UNESCO — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania — may have their differences, but their common love of the grain staple runs deep.

“Couscous, present at every social or cultural event, is at once ordinary and special,” their joint presentation argued.

“Ordinary because of the frequency of its use in a family setting, and special because of the unifying and propitiatory role it plays at convivial community occasions at which food is shared.”

Bland by itself, couscous is served with meat or fish, spicey stews, chickpeas and vegetables in a mouth-watering variety of dishes.

Moroccan restaurant owner Hicham Hazzoum was among the couscous connoisseurs who applauded UNESCO’s honour.

“I think we are the only Arab countries to have a high regard for this dish,” he said. “It is impossible not to eat it every Friday.

“Moroccans are crazy about couscous and even children love it. It shows that the couscous flame will never go out.”

Across the region, couscous — also known as Seksu, Kusksi and Kseksu — is as elementary as rice or noodles are to Asian cuisine, the staple without which no meal is complete.

Arabic dictionaries have documented “Kuskusi” since the 19th century, though it is known to be far older.

The regional pride in couscous found full expression in the countries’ joint nomination for the “knowledge, know-how and practices pertaining to the production and consumption of couscous”.

“Women and men, young and old, sedentary and nomadic, from rural or urban communities or from immigrant backgrounds all identify with this element,” it gushed.

“The ethos of couscous is the expression of community life.”

 

 ‘Great unifier’

Tunisian chef Taieb Bouhadra said his country took pride in its different types of couscous.

“There are many varieties, almost every house has its own grain,” said the owner of El Ali restaurant, in the old city of Tunis.

Couscous is prepared from wheat or barley, and sometimes from maize, millet or sorghum, which is ground into semolina.

This is rolled into pellets which are sieved and later soaked and repeatedly steamed.

 

 

“Women, in particular, play a fundamental role in the preparation and consumption of the dish, and in practising and preserving the related symbolic value systems,” said the paper.

The girls learn not only the techniques but also “the songs, gestures, characteristic oral expressions and ritual organisation” that go along with the process.

Algerian chef Rabah Ourrad said about making his couscous dishes: “I didn’t learn this in a cooking school. It’s decades of observing the mother, the sisters and all North African women who are experts in this.”

In an often fractious region, there were hopes the joint bid would strengthen a sense of common identity.

After Algeria four years ago sparked the ire of regional rival Morocco by planning its own couscous nomination, the 2020 bid was a cross-Maghreb initiative.

Ourrad also passionately argued that couscous could serve as the region’s great unifier.

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia all have their particular styles, he said, but adding: “We are all the same people, and the couscous is Maghrebi, the couscous is ours.”

Not everyone was fully on board with the mushy couscous diplomacy, including Hazzoum, the Moroccan restaurant manager.

“I say this with all due respect to other countries,” he told AFP, “but Moroccan couscous is the best.”

Israeli PM Hails ‘Historic’ Morocco Normalisation Agreement

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem on August 13, 2020. – Israel and the UAE agreed to normalise relations in a landmark US-brokered deal, only the third such accord the Jewish state has struck with an Arab nation. The agreement, first announced by US President Donald Trump on Twitter, will see Israel halt its plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, according to the UAE. (Photo by Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP)

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday hailed as “historic” a normalisation agreement with Morocco and anticipated direct flights between the two countries soon.

In a televised address, he thanked Moroccan King Mohammed VI “for taking this historic decision to bring an historic peace between us”.

Netanyahu said the people of Israel and Morocco have had a “warm relationship in the modern period”.

“We will resume liaison offices quickly between Israel and Morocco and work as rapidly as possible to establish full diplomatic relations,” Netanyahu said.

Morocco and Israel had respectively maintained liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat in the 1990s, before closing them in 2000.

“We’ll also institute direct flights… giving this bridge of peace an even more solid foundation,” the premier said.

Netanyahu also alluded to a “tremendous friendship shown by the kings of Morocco and the people of Morocco to the Jewish community there.”

He said the hundreds of thousands Moroccan Jews who immigrated to Israel “formed a human bridge” between the countries.

File photo: Morocco map.

 

In the 1950s and 60s, Jews from Iraq, Yemen and Morocco migrated to the Jewish state, where key posts were in the hands of Ashkenazi Jews, who hail from Europe.

Called Mizrahim, Jewish migrants from Arab states settled outside big cities and felt excluded at the time by the Israeli left-wing, which was then in power.

But at the end of the 1970s, Likud, now the right-wing ruling party of Netanyahu, courted their vote to form another electoral base.

“I’ve always believed that this historic day would come,” Netanyahu said, before lighting a candle for the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, which began Thursday.

After the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco is the fourth Arab state since August to commit to establishing diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

The agreement between Israel and Morocco was announced Thursday by US President Donald Trump, who also said the US would recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Netanyahu thanked Trump for “his extraordinary efforts to bring peace to Israel and the peoples of the Middle East”.

– ‘Political sin’ –
Islamist Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian coastal enclave, quickly slammed the deal between Israel and Morocco.

“It is a political sin that does not serve the Palestinian cause and encourages the occupation to continue to deny the rights of our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, told AFP, referring to Israel.

He accused Israel of “exploiting” normalisation deals to justify “increasing its settlements”

Over the past decade — particularly under Trump, whose policies have been highly favourable to Israel — there has been a significant expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

More than 450,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, home to about 2.8 million Palestinians.

Settlement expansion is widely seen as complicating the prospects for a “two-state solution”, which would see a viable Palestinian state created alongside Israel.

AFP