Rabat has agreed to normalise diplomatic ties with Israel becoming the fourth Arab country to strike a peace deal with the Jewish state in four months. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan earlier formalised relations with Israel within the framework of the Abraham Accords brokered by Washington.
"Another historic breakthrough today! Our two great friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East", Donald Trump tweeted on 10 December, announcing that for its part the US recognised Morocco's claim over Western Sahara.
The announcement coincided with the first day of Hanukkah, a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt (167 – 160 BC). "On this Hanukkah, the light of peace has never shone brighter than today in the Middle East", said Netanyahu praising the development, as quoted by The Times of Israel.
Political Map of the Middle East is Rapidly Changing
"This is a major development which makes the whole political map of the Middle East different", says Avigdor Eskin, Israeli publicist and political commentator. "But Morocco has long been friendly to Israel. There is a myth of paradise for the Jews in Arab countries. In most cases this is far from being true, but Morocco is an example of good coexistence. Albeit almost all the Jews have left the country for Israel, most of them carry good memories and they pass them to their offspring".
There are around half a million Jews in Israel today with Moroccan roots, according to the Israeli publicist, who notes that this community helps forge cordial relations between the countries.
Although Morocco did not recognise Israel as a state in 1948, it has nevertheless maintained secret ties with the Jewish state for decades including bilateral strategic and military cooperation under Moroccan King Hassan II and his successors.
"Morocco was opened for Israelis for a couple of decades and all the tourists came from there with a good and warm impression", says Eskin. "Although we know about the presence of Muslim radicals there, we see that peaceful approach has prevailed".
Israeli-Morocco Deal Presents Huge Potential to the Countries
The new deal has opened the door to enhanced and mutually beneficial cooperation between Israel and Morocco, according to the publicist.
"The potential is great", he stresses. "Twenty direct flights weekly will start operating very soon. The economic potential is huge including agriculture, medicine, military, and high-tech. But there is also an opportunity for political cooperation".
On Thursday, Israeli airline Israir signaled that it would begin 20 flights a week between the Jewish state and Morocco within three months, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Besides facilitating direct flights between the two countries, Morocco will also develop innovative relationships in the field of the economy and technology, King Mohammed VI pledged earlier this week.
"As part of this goal, there will be work on renewing liaison offices in the two countries, as was the case in the past for many years, until 2002", the Moroccan monarch said, in a reference to the 2002 Beirut Arab League Summit which led to the conclusion of the Arab Peace Initiative.
Palestinian Issue and New Era in Israeli-Arab Relations
Under the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, re-endorsed at the 2007 and 2017 League summits, Arab states vowed to normalise relations with Israel only if it withdraws from the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights and establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
After the announcement of the Morocco-Israeli peace deal, Palestinian movements subjected the agreement to sharp criticism, calling it a violation of the Arab Peace Initiative.
"The Palestinian problem becomes less than secondary and ceased to be a problem", says Eskin. "Instead of setting the territories controlled by Israel on fire now the time is coming to incorporate the Arab residents more and to improve their living conditions. This is going to be easy after the support for the terrorists will stop totally, both political and military. It will help turn Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) into a flourishing garden with the assistance of the Arab states who chose peace".
As the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election is still unclear, some Arab states are concerned about the possible restoration of relations between the US and Iran under the potential Biden administration, according to the publicist.
However, he refutes the idea that Biden's apparent win may undo the ongoing rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. Quite the contrary, Biden's possible turn to Iran is yet another reason for the Gulf States and some other Arab countries to consider military and technological cooperation with Israel, argues Eskin.
Meanwhile, he expects that more countries may jump on the Abraham Accords' bandwagon by 20 January 2021.
"We are talking about a new era after 70 years of hostility", he says. "Basically, they are in a process of recognition of Israel's right to exist. We are expecting from the Saudis to act accordingly and then we will have the most influential Arab countries to side with Israel".