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Israel and Morocco seal their normalisation agreement

Yair Lapid's visit to the Alawi kingdom marks the first visit by a senior Israeli diplomat to the Maghreb country since 2003
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AP/EMMANUEL DUNAND  -   Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid

Israel continues to showcase its renewed foreign policy led by the current foreign minister, Yair Lapid, the forerunner of the new "Government of Change" that succeeded in dethroning the long-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after 12 years in power last June. Lapid, who will serve as foreign minister for two years and then lead the government, has stepped on the gas and one of his main objectives has been to shore up the Abraham Accords, signed during the Netanyahu administration and sponsored by former US president Donald Trump.

The Abraham Accords are seen as a step towards trying to stabilise the troubled Middle East region. Through these pacts, four Arab nations agreed to normalise relations with the Hebrew country: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and finally Morocco. The Abraham Accords break the historic consensus of Arab countries not to engage with Israel until the Palestinian issue is resolved. Yair Lapid has been charged with translating these agreements into reality by becoming, for example, the first senior Israeli official to visit the United Arab Emirates, a milestone that former Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to meet.

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REUTERS/TOM BRENNER - File photo, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed

Since being sworn in just two months ago, Yair Lapid has put Israel back on the international stage in contrast to the isolationist policy that characterised the last years of the Netanyahu government. Within the framework of the Abraham Accords, Lapid will arrive today in Morocco for a two-day official visit, the fifth official trip by the Israeli foreign minister in just over two months, with the aim of further strengthening ties with the countries that have signed the normalisation pact. Israel and Morocco agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations last December, following an agreement brokered by former US President Donald Trump, in which the United States recognised the sovereignty of the Maghreb country over Western Sahara.

The most significant advances since the two countries resumed relations have been in the economic and tourism spheres. Last July, seven months after the two countries agreed to normalise relations, the first regular air routes between the two countries were opened. This is an important boost for promoting tourism and business exchanges and, above all, good news for the large Jewish population living in the Maghreb country, as well as for the 700,000 Sephardic Israelis with origins in Morocco. 

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AFP/ JACK GUEZ - Israeli airlines Israir, El Al and Arkia will serve several Moroccan cities, including Marrakech, from 25 July 2021

Yair Lapid's visit to the Alawi kingdom marks the first visit by a senior Israeli diplomat to the Maghreb country since 2003. Relations between the two countries broke off in 2000 as a result of the Second Intifada, but despite the fact that officially the two countries had no relations, cooperation continued unofficially, especially in the agricultural sector. During his two-day official visit to the North African country, Lapid is due to inaugurate his liaison office in Rabat and will also meet his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita. On Thursday, the foreign minister will travel to Casablanca where he will meet with the local Jewish community and pray at the Beth-El synagogue.

"This historic visit is a continuation of the long-standing friendship and deep roots of the Jewish community in Morocco, and the large community of Israelis with origins in Morocco," Lapid said in a statement hours before his trip to the Maghreb country. "We will continue to work to ensure that these agreements bring innovation and opportunities to our countries," the Israeli foreign minister said, referring to the Abraham Accords, which he has placed at the centre of his foreign policy.

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WAM/Handout via REUTERS - Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid shakes hands with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan in Abu Dhabi

The foreign minister's visit to Morocco follows a series of previous diplomatic contacts, all aimed at underpinning the normalisation agreements with the various Arab countries that have signed the pact. Last June, Yair Lapid inaugurated the Israeli embassy in the UAE, as well as meeting his US and Bahraini counterparts in Rome the same month. Yair Lapid embraces the legacy of the Abraham Accords signed during the previous Netanyahu government and embodies important milestones for the country that the former prime minister would have wanted to fulfil.