Israel and Morocco sign agreement to operate direct flights

Former US President Donald Trump announced on 10 December that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalise relations
Israeli airline El Al

AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA  -   Israeli airline El Al

A month after the first Israeli commercial flight landed in Rabat, Morocco and Israel have reportedly agreed to operate direct flights, reports the Hebrew newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, which did not disclose further details. 

It is the third aviation agreement recently signed between Israel and Arab countries, following similar pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in recent months. Morocco follows in the wake of these two countries, which, along with Egypt, Sudan and Jordan, are the only five countries in the Arab world that have normalised or are willing to normalise relations with Tel Aviv. 

The first commercial flight from Tel Aviv arrived in the Alawi capital on 22 December with an Israeli-American delegation led by former presidential adviser Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former President Donald Trump. The delegation aimed to improve and strengthen ties between the two countries as part of the Trump administration's strategy of Arab rapprochement with Israel.

On that occasion, Israel's National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabat and Jared Kushner met with Mohammed VI, and Moroccan and Israeli officials signed agreements on visas, water management, the financial sector and aviation. The latter materialised with the agreement revealed by the Israeli newspaper, which is expected to boost the tourism sector in both countries. Currently some 50,000 Israelis visit the Maghreb country every year. 

Some 700,000 Jews living in Israel are of Moroccan origin and maintain the customs of their country of origin. Morocco is also home to the largest Jewish community in the Maghreb. Their presence in the area dates back to 1492 when the Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula by the Catholic Monarchs. After World War II and the founding of Israel, most of them emigrated to the Hebrew country, leaving 3,000 in Morocco today. 

Relations between the two countries are expected to intensify even more following the announcement by the hitherto US ambassador to Morocco, David Fischer, of the opening of liaison offices, which were closed in 2000 due to the Palestinian intifada that took place that year. The US diplomat was optimistic about the progress of relations, suggesting that embassies might even be opened.

US behind the scenes 

Although relations between Morocco and Israel were suspended in 2000, cooperation continued unofficially and several companies, particularly agricultural companies, operate in the North African country, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Kaiba told the EFE news agency.

The United States has been behind the normalisation of relations with Israel. In the Moroccan case, it issued a statement in December recognising Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, which has been seen as a barter to bring Rabat closer to Tel Aviv. 

He was also instrumental in the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel in September last year, which Sudan joined a fortnight ago at a ceremony held on the occasion of a visit by former US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Approaches that have been rejected by Palestine as treasonous.

Since then, the UAE and Israel have seen an exponential increase in trade and other agreements, for example, in sports, with the purchase of an Israeli football team by a leading Emirati businessman.