A historic event took place this Sunday in Israel's foreign relations with Arab countries. A flight of the Israeli airline "Israir" has been deployed from Ben Gurion International Airport to the Moroccan city of Marrakech. A few weeks ago, several airlines from the Hebrew state announced that from 25 July they would start operations to Moroccan cities such as Marrakech and Casablanca.
"El Al's historic direct flights with Morocco follow the agreement signed between the two countries in December 2020," the airline said in a statement. This rapprochement between Tel Aviv and Rabat was pushed by former US president Donald Trump, as were the agreements between Israel and other Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Ofir Genderlman, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, described the historic flight as "another step in strengthening relations between Israel and Morocco". A festive ceremony with Israeli and Moroccan flags was held before the take-off from Israel. Ben Gurion airport was prepared for the occasion with Moroccan decorations. On the plane that later landed in Morocco, the word 'peace' could be read in Arabic, Hebrew and English, as on the first plane connecting the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Also, some of the crew members wore traditional Moroccan costumes. "There is great enthusiasm from everyone involved in this historic event," said Ishay Zacks, captain of the flight.
The journey took approximately 5 hours and tickets between the two countries cost around $500. The airline Israir has planned two to three flights per week. El AL and Arkia also operate flights.
However, although this is a big step in relations between Tel Aviv and Rabat, this was not the first flight between the countries. On 22 December 2020, after the formalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco, an El AL plane landed in Rabat. This trip carried a US-Israeli diplomatic delegation, symbolising the re-establishment of diplomatic ties.
Israel and Morocco maintained diplomatic relations until the second Palestinian intifada that began in 2000 and lasted until 2005. However, there is an important link between the two states as Morocco is home to the largest Jewish community in North Africa. The Maghreb country has around 3,000 Jews. Israel, on the other hand, is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.
Part of the Arab population has considered this agreement between Morocco and Israel a "betrayal" of the Palestinians. As was the case with the Gulf countries that established diplomatic delegations in the Hebrew state.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced last week that he would visit Morocco shortly after Israir's direct flight. In this way, the new Israeli government continues to strengthen its ties with Rabat. Israeli Prime Minister Natfali Bennet has called Morocco 'an important friend and partner in promoting peace and security in the region'.