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One Year After Israel-Morocco Normalisation Pact, Trade and Business Still Sluggish

© AFP 2021 / MENAHEM KAHANAAn employee of Bank of Israel holds new 50 Shekels' bills during a press conference at the bank's headquarters in Jerusalem on September 10 2014.
An employee of Bank of Israel holds new 50 Shekels' bills during a press conference at the bank's headquarters in Jerusalem on September 10 2014.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
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Although the two nations have signed several security and defence agreements, the further development of economic ties has been bogged down. One reason for this is the coronavirus pandemic, another is Israel's reluctance to invest in the African country, says an expert.
The 10th of December will mark the first anniversary of Morocco declaring it would normalise relations with Israel, thus becoming the sixth Muslim nation to ink a deal with the Jewish state, after Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.

Slow Progress

But Amine Ayoub, a social entrepreneur and freelance consultant, says ties have been developing "quite slowly".
Unlike the UAE, where trade with Israel has exceeded half a billion dollars and with whom it has signed a number of mega-deals, including in the fields of medicine, defence, banking, and cybersecurity, cooperation with Rabat has been limited to only a few areas.
In the field of aviation, the two states have agreed on direct flights but the arrival of Morocco's first plane, which was supposed to land at the beginning of December, was delayed due to the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron.
The coronavirus pandemic has also bogged down progress in terms of tourism. Prior to the outbreak of the virus in 2020, Morocco saw tens of thousands of Israeli visitors a year but that number plummeted dramatically as a result of restrictions in both nations.
Only in the fields of defence and security have the two nations registered a significant advancement. In November, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco, where he signed a memorandum of understanding that cemented relations between the two and made it easier for Tel Aviv to sell arms to Rabat.
© AP Photo / Mosa'ab ElshamyMoroccans protest against the participation of Israel and the flying of its flag at the United Nation's climate talks being held in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016
Moroccans protest against the participation of Israel and the flying of its flag at the United Nation's climate talks being held in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.12.2021
Moroccans protest against the participation of Israel and the flying of its flag at the United Nation's climate talks being held in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016

"Cooperation in the spheres of tourism, aviation, and defence existed even before the normalisation deal between Israel and Morocco", says Ayoub. "Now they will only make it more official and the idea is that those ties will be boosted with time", he added.

Public Displeased

Yet, a challenge remains to those relations -- public opinion in Morocco. Last October, several months before the normalisation deal was signed, a poll found that 88 percent of Moroccans rejected a potential agreement with Israel.
When the pact was finally announced, Moroccans took to the streets to vent their anger and protest against the move. Similar rallies have also been held throughout 2021.
Morocco, a Sunni majority country, has always been supportive of the Palestinian ambition for statehood, and it has been frustrated with the policies of Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
Ayoub says this pressure is unlikely to force the local authorities to change their course.

"These decisions [to normalise relations] are normally made by the king and might not even be supported by the government. But I can tell you that Moroccans are peaceful. Even though they might oppose the move, there won't be any violence".

Angry mobs are not expected to take to the streets of Morocco for yet another reason - the economy.
Morocco's economic growth has been hampered by a drought and the outbreak of the pandemic. Unemployment and poverty rates have continued to be major issues bothering both experts and the public alike.

"Ties with Israel are simply not the top priority for Moroccans, and Israel doesn't have the tools to help Morocco to overcome those challenges", reasons the expert. "Israel doesn't want to invest in Morocco. All they want is to sell their technologies and strengthen security cooperation. It will not be more than that".

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