Upgrade in Israel-Morocco relations?

Netanyahu and Pompeo discussed during their meeting Lisbon an upgrade of economic relations between Israel and Morocco.

Elad Benari,

Netanyahu and Pompeo in Lisbon
Netanyahu and Pompeo in Lisbon
Kobi Gideon/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met on Wednesday in Lisbon, discussed among other things an upgrade of economic relations between Israel and Arab countries in the region, and in particular relations with Morocco.

Dana Weiss, Chief Political Analyst for Channel 12 News, reported that the US State Department has made tremendous efforts in recent times to advance the regulation of relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab countries in the Middle East.

The country on which Pompeo and Netanyahu concentrated during their meeting in Portugal is Morocco, which they see as the first destination with which to sign historical understandings.

The Prime Minister hopes to announce a normalization of relations in the coming days, even before the expiry of the 21 days which were given to the Knesset to form a government, as a means of exerting political pressure on the system.

Last week, the State Department announced Pompeo would visit Morocco, which was described as a "critical partner for us across the range of issues."

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel but Morocco, along with some Gulf states such as Bahrain, has been relaxing the Arab world's decades-old boycott of the Jewish state.

In February, unconfirmed reports in Israel said Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

A month earlier, Moroccan media said talks were under way about a visit by Netanyahu to Morocco. Neither country commented on the reports.

Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices in 1994, but those offices were closed in 2000 due to the wave of violence known as the “Second Intifada”.

Morocco supported the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) unilateral move to gain observer status at the United Nations in 2012.

There remains a Jewish community in Morocco, though it is not as large as it once was, with only about 3,000 people of the once 250,000-strong Jewish community still living there.