[horse trading] Israel recognizes Western Sahara as part of Morocco

Al-Jazeera  /  July 17, 2023

Morocco claims sovereignty over territory, but other countries back separatist movement.

Israel has recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, the Moroccan government and a statement from the Israeli prime minister’s office say.

Rabat said on Monday that Israel is considering opening a consulate in Dakhla.

A statement from Morocco’s royal palace said Israel’s position was expressed in a letter to King Mohammed VI from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Morocco has had control of the territory, but little international recognition, since 1975 after Spanish colonial rule ended.

The Algerian-backed Polisario Front demands an independent state in Western Sahara. In 2020, then-US President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s claim to the territory in return for its partial upgrade of relations with Israel.

The Israeli position “will be sent to the United Nations, regional and international organizations … as well as all the states Israel has diplomatic relations with”, the statement from Morocco’s royal palace quotes the letter as saying.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said recognition of the Western Sahara as Moroccan territory “will strengthen relations between the countries” and advance regional stability.

Twenty-eight other countries – mostly African and Arab – have opened consulates in the Western Saharan cities of Dakhla or Laayoune in what Morocco sees as tangible support for its rule of the territory.

Israel’s position on the Western Sahara is “clear-cut” and comes as momentum builds in Morocco’s favour after Washington and Madrid in addition to other European capitals supported its autonomy plan for the territory, a senior Moroccan government official told the Reuters news agency.

The Israeli recognition will not affect Morocco’s principles in defending a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added.

Morocco expects the decision to encourage Israeli investment in the territory, he said.

In 2020, Morocco agreed to normalize relations with Israel in a US-brokered deal. As part of the agreement, Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco became the fourth country to strike a deal aimed at normalizing relations with Israel. The others were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Palestinians have been critical of the deals, saying Arab countries have set back the cause of peace by abandoning a longstanding demand that Israel gives up land for a Palestinian state before it can receive recognition.

As an indication of warming ties, the Israeli military earlier on Monday appointed a colonel as defence attaché to Morocco.

Since the resumption of ties, Morocco and Israel have signed cooperation agreements, including a defence pact.


Israel recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  July 17, 2023

The decision comes after Israel said it would condition decision on hosting the delayed Negev summit.

Israel has recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara, the Moroccan Royal Court said in a statement on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed Moroccan King Mohammed VI of the decision in a letter and said that Israel would register its decision with the United Nations and other international organizations. Israel is also considering opening a consulate in the city of Dakhla.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed the announcement.  

“This step will strengthen the relations between the countries and between the peoples and the continuation of cooperation to deepen regional peace and stability,” Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said.

The decision is a major win for Rabat, which has worked for years to convince countries to recognize its sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The US recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the territory in 2020 in exchange for Rabat’s normalization of ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, which also saw Bahrain and the UAE establish official relations with Israel.

Israeli officials said in June they were debating the move, but in July said they would condition recognition on whether Morocco convened a forum between the US, Israel, and Arab states.

The Negev summit was set to be held in Morocco later this year. The summit was first held last year at Israel’s Sde Boker kibbutz, which saw the foreign ministers of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and the United States come together.

The aim of the meetings is to deepen cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Morocco cancelled the forum last month in protest against Israel’s military campaign in the occupied West Bank and illegal Jewish settlement expansion.

As of Monday, Morocco hadn’t publicly announced plans to reschedule the forum.

Tensions in the occupied West Bank have been simmering for months but ratcheted up to new levels in July after Israel launched a large-scale assault on the Jenin refugee camp.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 were wounded by the Israeli operation. Almost a third of the refugee camp, around 4,000 Palestinians, fled their homes, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. The assault was widely condemned in the Arab and Islamic world.


 Israel to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Sahara region

The National  /  July 17, 2023

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the announcement in a letter sent to King Mohammed VI.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed plans to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over a Western Sahara region.

Netanyahu made the announcement in a letter sent to King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s Map state news agency said.

“In this regard, the Israeli Prime Minister affirmed that his country’s position will be embodied in all the relevant works and documents of the Israeli government,” it said.

In his message, Netanyahu said Israel was considering opening a consulate in the Moroccan city of Dakhla.

Last month, Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi visited Rabat to discuss Israel’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara region.

The area is claimed by Morocco, which controls 80 per cent of its territory, but the Algeria-backed Polisario Front continues to demand a referendum on it becoming an independent state.

The two sides fought a 15-year war over the territory after Spanish colonial forces withdrew in 1975.

Morocco resumed ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in 2020, encouraged by then US president Donald Trump, who recognized Rabat’s rule over the region.

But President Joe Biden has not followed through by opening a consulate there.

The Israeli military also appointed its first attaché to Morocco on Monday. Col Sharon Itach, of Moroccan origin, is leading the country’s Home Front Command.

It comes after the military sent its first delegation of troops for a US-led drill in Morocco in June.

The two nations have intensified diplomatic relations. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hosted Hanegbi for talks in June.

Morocco recently postponed a summit for the signatories of the Abraham Accords that was scheduled to be held in the summer, citing political reasons thought to be linked to tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Asked earlier this month what Israel sought in return for the recognition of the Sahara region as Moroccan, and whether it planned to open a consulate in the territory, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen linked a decision to the conference.

“We are right now working in regards to this issue and our plan is to have our final decision in the Negev Forum,” he told reporters.

Cohen said he expected the Moroccan-hosted event to take place in September or October.

Tensions have been rising in the occupied West Bank as Israel has conducted several fatal raids in Nablus and Jenin, with dozens killed.

Palestinian attacks against settlers are also on the rise, the latest on Sunday where a gunman opened fire at a vehicle, injuring three Israelis.

“Morocco expresses its solidarity with the Palestinian people and rejects the Israeli government decision of expanding settlements in the West Bank,” Bourita said last month.