Israel Recognizes Morocco’s Sovereignty over Western Sahara in Tense Regional Context: Latest Updates

2023-07-17 22:34:39

After Washington, Israel decided to “recognize the sovereignty of Morocco” in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, announced Monday, July 17 the royal cabinet in Rabat, citing a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a tense regional context.

“By this letter, the Israeli Prime Minister brought to the very high attention of His Majesty the King (Mohammed VI) the decision of the State of Israel to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara”said the Palace in a press release.

In his missive, Mr. Netanyahu specifies that his country’s position will be “reflected in all relevant acts and documents of the Israeli government”. She will “transmitted to the United Nations, regional and international organizations of which Israel is a member, as well as to all countries with which Israel maintains diplomatic relations”adds the Israeli leader, according to excerpts from his letter cited in the royal statement.

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Finally, Mr. Netanyahu informed the Moroccan sovereign that Israel was examining positively “the opening of a consulate in the city of Dakhla”, located in the part of Western Sahara controlled by the kingdom. Rabat wants its allies to open diplomatic representations in Western Sahara in recognition of the “Moroccanness” of the vast territory and as a token of their support for the kingdom. In fact, for King Mohammed VI, “The Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco considers its international environment”he said in a televised speech.

“Non-Self-Governing Territory”, according to the UN

A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara is considered a “non-self-governing territory” by the United Nations in the absence of a final settlement. For nearly fifty years, a conflict has opposed Morocco to the separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algiers. Rabat advocates an autonomy plan under its exclusive sovereignty, while the Polisario calls for a self-determination referendum under the aegis of the UN.

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In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen welcomed the decision. “This measure will consolidate relations between States and peoples, and the pursuit of cooperation in order to strengthen peace and regional stability”did he declare.

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The Israeli decision, which was expected, comes in a climate of heightened rivalry between Morocco and Algeria, the two neighbors having severed their diplomatic relations in 2021 at the initiative of Algiers.

Strong tensions with Algiers

Morocco and Israel normalized diplomatic relations in December 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, a process between Israel and several Arab countries, backed by Washington. This alliance between Morocco and Israel – in return for American recognition of the “Moroccan sovereignty” on Western Sahara – further heightened tensions with Algiers, which denounced “foreign manoeuvres”.

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Since the end of May, three Israeli ministers as well as the speaker of parliament, the national security adviser and soldiers from an elite infantry unit, a first, have visited Morocco.

But this all-out rapprochement is not unanimous in Morocco, especially since the accession to power in Israel of ultranationalist currents. If the militant mobilization has weakened, the Palestinian cause continues to arouse immense sympathy within the Moroccan population. “The strengthening of our relations with Israel will not come at the expense of our principled position in support of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights”assured the senior Moroccan official on Monday.

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