Prime Minister - Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu

Morocco has become the fourth Arab country to normalise relations with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the news at a candle-lighting ceremony on the first night of Chanukah at the Western Wall.

US President Donald Trump made the announcement on Twitter and agreed to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the agreement.

Netanyahu thanked Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI for a “historic decision”.

“The people of Morocco and the Jewish people have had a warm relationship in the modern period,” he said. “Everybody knows the tremendous friendship shown by the kings of Morocco and the people of Morocco to the Jewish community there. Hundreds of thousands of these Moroccan Jews came to Israel, they form a human bridge between our two countries and our two peoples, of sympathy respect, of fondness and love. I think that this is the foundation on which we can now build this peace.”

Defence Minister Benny Gantz, applauded the establishment of official ties with Morocco.

“This is a significant step, which will further the defence and economic interests of both countries,” he said.

King Mohammed VI cited the “historical role” Morocco had played in bringing the peoples of the region together as it would offer stability in the Middle East. He also noted special ties that bound the Jewish community of Moroccan origin including those in Israel.

A White House statement explained that Trump sealed the agreement in a phone call with King Mohammed VI.

“They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner reportedly told Reuters.

He added, “Through this historic step, Morocco is building on its longstanding bond with the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco and throughout the world, including in Israel. This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the announcement.

“This agreement is the latest evidence of shifting societal attitudes toward Israel in the region, I hope that this move will encourage others to follow their lead,” he said.

Lauder expressed gratitude to the Trump administration and congratulations to Netanyahu on “another milestone” in the transformation of the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and North Africa. He also thanked King Mohammed VI for recognising the contributions of Morocco’s vibrant Jewish community to Jewish life in your country.

“Together with our affiliate, the Conseil des Communautés Israelites du Maroc, we look forward to working with the Kingdom of Morocco as it deepens engagement with Israel and Jewish people worldwide,” Lauder added. “I am certain that President-elect Biden and incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken will continue to expand on the growing relationships we are seeing between Israel and countries of the Middle East and North Africa region. WJC looks forward to partnering with them and their team to further promote peace and stability in this important part of the world.”

Here in the UK, Board of Deputies President, Marie van der Zyl, also welcomed the decision.

She said, “Israel has hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens of Moroccan ancestry whose families fled persecution following the establishment of the State of Israel. The news that Morocco has formally recognised Israel therefore carries special significance and represents an opportunity to anchor the long-standing connection between Morocco and the Jewish people, and formalise a rich and deep shared history.”

Ms van de Zyl added her hope that more nations would join the path to peace in the region.

The latest Trump brokered deal may be the last with President-elect Joe Biden taking power on January 20 although there are hopes Saudi Arabia may sign a deal with Israel.

News of the developing relationship sparked a mixed reaction.

Main political parties in Morocco welcomed the US-brokered agreement with Israel, but Morocco’s Islamist groups rejected the deal. Hamas and Palestinians branded it a “betrayal”.

A reported 30,000 people supporting the deal attended a rally in Western Sahara’s largest city Laayoune. But there were reports of possible protests by pro-Palestinian organisations in Rabat following the announcement. Moroccan authorities though prevented a proposed sit-in at Parliament Square due to Covid restrictions.

Around one million Jews originate from Morocco in Israel with 70,000 visiting last year to trace their roots.

Bicom noted that Moroccan Jews had served as ministers and advisers in the royal court although

Morocco ended all diplomatic ties with Israel and closed its mission in Tel Aviv in 2000.

However, diplomats from Morocco, Israel and the US have brought about the landmark deal.

Trump, Netanyahu and the King of Morocco will hold a three-way conversation to discuss the normalisation process.

Trump is planning to hold a ceremony at the White House before steps down. Morocco and Israel will reportedly begin direct flights soon and open offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat.

The two nations will sign agreements to benefit the economic and technology sectors. Both sides will then reportedly negotiate a peace treaty.