'Difficult and painful': Morocco's former PM distances himself from normalisation deal with Israel
Morocco's former prime minister said signing the normalisation deal with Israel was 'painful' and he was 'pressured' by higher authority.
In his first interview after leaving the office last September, Salaheddin El-Othmani spoke recently to Al-Araby TV about the last four politically-troubled years as the head of the government in the Alaouite monarch.
El-Othmani, a self-proclaimed anti-normalisation activist, justified his key role in signing the problematic deal in 2020 by "pressure the official position imposed on him."
"That moment [signing the normalisation deal] was painful and difficult. But it was a decision of a state and I was head of government," said Morocco's former PM Salaheddin El-Othmani
"However, my personal position has never changed. I am always standing by Palestine against the Israeli violence," argued El-Othmani.
On 10 December 2020, El-Othmani signed the controversial deal with the former American president's adviser Jared Kushner and Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, amidst the denunciations of his colleagues in the Party of Justice and Development (PJD).
Shortly after, El-Othmani invited the head of the Hamas' political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh to Rabat in a step that was widely seen as a desperate attempt to save the party's integrity bore the elections.
El-Othmani said he ensured Haniyeh that his party's position has not changed despite the controversial deal.
The Moroccan state sealed the deal as a patriotic diplomatic' step that serves its interests in the Western Sahara conflict, as the US recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the disputed territory in exchange for normalisation with Israel.
The normalisation exacerbates the conflicts inside the modest Islamist party, which swept the polls in the 2011 elections following the uprising pro-reform protests in the Kingdom in the same year.
After a decade in power, PJD lost the majority in the 8 September elections last year with only 13 seats. Some observers linked its defeat to its inconsistency on the question of relations with Israel.
Following the party's stark defeat, the former populist leader Abdelillah Benkirane was called back to the leadership of the PJD after El-Othmani resigned from the position.
"We did make mistakes during our years in power. We admit it and we take it back. Yes, normalisation was a mistake," said Benkirane in his first public speech in May after five years of 'political silence'.
Rabat had previously established ties with Tel Aviv, after the signing of the Oslo peace agreement in 1993. Following the Palestinian uprising (Intifada) in 2000, The Kingdom decided to cut off its newly established relationship with Israel.
Despite joining the Abraham accords, anti-normalisation feelings remain vivid within Moroccan society as monthly pro-Palestine protests continue to rock the North African Kingdom.