Moroccan King Mohammed VI says President Shimon Peres is a welcome friend—but some other time, and hints that Peres would be more welcome if Israel agrees to freeze building for Jews.
The king cancelled a planned visit by the President, who then cancelled his entire trip to Morocco, which is considered by many to be Israel’s closest friend in the Arab world. President Peres’ visit was to include a meeting at the World Economic Conference.
"President Peres decided to turn down the invitation from the Forum after being informed that King Mohammed VI would not meet with him at this time over the ongoing political situation with the Palestinians," a presidential spokeswoman told the French news agency AFP.
"The king let the president know that he is welcome to visit Morocco to participate in the Forum but that he would prefer to meet under other circumstances," she added.
The ”other circumstances” refers to the efforts by the Arab world to bring international pressure on Israel to renew the freeze on building new homes for Jews in Judea and Samaria. An unprecedented 10-month freeze, designed to satisfy Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s condition for resuming direct talks with Israel, expired last month without the PA agreeing to honor its original promise. Abbas argued that the freeze was only partial.
Although Morocco and Israel do not have formal diplomatic ties, Israeli officials frequently visit, and the country treats Jews better than other Muslim countries.
Morocco once was home to more than 100,000 Jews, almost all of whom have moved to Israel, with approximately 5,000 remaining. Moroccans in Israel freely visit their native country, and Casablanca hosts a Jewish organization representing the community.
Former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin visits Morocco in1993 after he signed an agreement with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
After the outbreak of the Oslo War, also known as the Second Intifada, 10 years ago, two Moroccan youth tried to vandalize a local synagogue. King Mohammed said he would not tolerate mistreatment of the country’s Jews, and the youth were arrested, convicted and sentenced to jail.