AP / September 7, 2023
JERUSALEM – Morocco’s senate president has postponed a historic visit to Israel due to a medical emergency, the Israeli parliament announced Wednesday.
The announcement came just a day before Ena’am Mayara was scheduled to visit Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, on a trip aimed at cementing the fledgling ties between the two countries.
Mayara was to be the first Moroccan official and one of the few Muslim leaders ever to set foot in the Knesset. The parliament had planned to greet him with a red carpet and a ceremonial guard of honor.
Israel and Morocco fully normalized relations as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords, a series of diplomatic agreements between Israel and four Arab countries brokered by then-President Donald Trump.
The Knesset issued a statement late Wednesday saying that Mayara had been hospitalized during a stop in neighboring Jordan. He was forced to reschedule his Israel trip and call off a visit earlier in the day to the Palestinian government in the West Bank, the statement said.
“I am sorry that because of a medical emergency, I am unable to come to the Knesset,” the statement quoted Mayara as saying. It gave no details on the nature of his illness but said he would return to Morocco.
“The connection between the kingdom of Morocco and the state of Israel is a shared interest of the two countries, and together we will deepen it,” he added.
Israel’s Knesset speaker Amir Ohana, who visited Morocco earlier this year, said Mayara’s visit was supposed to be a highlight of the new relations. He said Israel wished Mayara “a speedy and full recovery.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed interest in expanding the Abraham Accords to bring in additional Arab and Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. But relations with Israel’s Arab partners have cooled due to the treatment of Palestinians by Netanyahu’s far-right government.
The government is dominated by ultranationalist politicians who oppose Palestinian independence and have promoted settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Morocco delayed a summit of Israel and its Abraham Accord partners earlier this year due to the political climate.
Still, Israel’s relations with Morocco appear strong.
Israel is home to a large community of Jews of Moroccan descent. Morocco and Israel have agreed to military cooperation and boosted trade. Earlier this year, Israel recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, joining the United States as the only two countries to acknowledge the kingdom’s annexation of the disputed north African territory.