Despite booming relations in 2023, Israeli-Moroccan ties hit by war on Gaza

Despite booming relations in 2023, Israeli-Moroccan ties hit by war on Gaza
Gaza war has postponed Netanyahu's visit to Rabat and disrupted relations between the two states as anti-normalisation sentiment escalates in Morocco.
2 min read
05 April, 2024
Since October 7, Rabat has refrained from commenting on the status of its ties with Tel Aviv. (Getty)

The year 2023 is the most productive for Israeli-Moroccan relations since the signing of a normalisation deal three years ago. But, Israel's war on Gaza, launched last October, is poised to alter this trajectory, according to the latest report from the Abraham Accord Peace Institute (AAPI).

Last year, trade between Rabat and Tel Aviv doubled, reaching US$116.7 million compared to US$56.2 million in 2022 — marking the fastest growth recorded among the signatory countries of the Abraham Accords.

This increase excludes contracts for cybersecurity and defence, although Israel is reportedly the third-largest arms supplier to Morocco, notably through a recent US$500 million deal for the Barak MX defence system.

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To fortify economic ties, the report recommends establishing trade offices in both Rabat and Tel Aviv to facilitate interactions between the economic decision-makers of the two countries. It also suggests exploring the possibility of creating a 'US-Morocco-Israel industrial qualification zone.'

On the other hand, the report underscores the frequent visits of Israeli officials to Morocco as indicative of a robust relationship. Between May and June 2023, five Israeli officials visited Rabat, including the President of the Knesset Amir Ohana, whose trip triggered social upheaval amid growing anti-normalisation sentiments in the country.

A month after Ohana's visit, Israel recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the deputed territory of Western Sahara, reportedly a condition Rabat put in place to advance ties with Tel Aviv.

Following this recognition, the Moroccan monarch invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Rabat.

However, Israel's brutal war on Gaza disrupted relations between the two states, and postponed Netanyahus visit, reveals the report.

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The number of tourists visiting Morocco dropped by 32% after the Israeli company El AL suspended its flights to the North African Kingdom following the outbreak of the war last October. The company will not resume flights to Rabat this summer because of 'changes in customer demands.'

The last official meeting was in September, when André Azoulay, King Mohammed VI's adviser, visited Israel.

Since October, Rabat has refrained from commenting on the status of its ties with Tel Aviv.

In January, the Moroccan government declined to receive a petition, endorsed by over 10,000 signatures, urging the reversal of normalization with Israel. However, in March, Rabat confirmed ongoing normalization, emphasising its benefits for the Palestinian people. 

"By securing a land route to deliver aid from within Israel, Morocco shows that its connections in Israel serve the cause of peace and defend the rights of Palestinians," a Moroccan diplomatic source told Reuters after Rabat secured a land route for aid for the first time since the war began.