On 10 December, Morocco and Israel declared a normalisation of their relationship in a deal brokered by United States (US) President Donald Trump. The North African country is the fourth Arab nation in 2020 to establish an open and friendly relationship with Israel.
Western Sahara was part of the deal
As part of the deal the US agreed, as the first Western country, to acknowledge Morocco’s sovereignty in the Western Sahara. Since the early 1970’s, the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara, backed by Algeria, have wanted to establish their own state under the name of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), claiming their right of self-determination. However, until now the fast majority of land is controlled by the Moroccan government, with only a few dozen countries recognising the SADR. The US brokered agreement further includes the establishment of diplomatic ties, direct flights between the two nations and economic cooperation.
Even though the Moroccan king has agreed to recognise Israel, he still assured the Palestinian president that he hopes for a two-state solution. The Palestinians have felt extremely betrayed this year by so many of their fellow Arab nations agreeing to normalisation with Israel, before the establishment of a Palestinian state. Up until this year Arab countries widely agreed to only recognise Israel if the Palestinians would be given the right to establish their own state with borders complying to those of 1967.
Reactions: “Morocco’s regime is willing to sell its soul”
Morocco’s recognition of Israel received mixed reactions internationally, especially because this deal involves two peoples wanting to claim self-determination to establish a state. The latter of which making this normalisation agreement different than the three earlier this year involving Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sudan.
Spain, former colonizer of the Western Sahara, welcomed the normalisation between Morocco and Israel, but denounced the US’ recognition of the Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE welcomed the agreement as well, without mentioning the Western Sahara. The Palestinians condemned the deal, feeling it is the latest stab in the back from their fellow Arabs. The Polisario Front’s representative to the United Nations, Sidi Omar, condemned it as well, saying that “The move shows that Morocco’s regime is willing to sell its soul to maintain its illegal occupation of parts of the Western Sahara”.
Trump vs Biden: does it make a difference?
It seems as if Donal Trump is racing against the clock to broker as many normalisation deals between Israel and Arab countries before he leaves office in January 2021. It will be President-elect Joe Biden who has to decide from then on what the US’ stance will be regarding the matter. And even though it is not clear yet whether he will also recognise the Western Sahara to be part of Morocco and therefore jeopardising this particular agreement, he has already stated that he will continue to push for normalising relations between Israel and Arab countries.
Palestinians’ lives deteriorating
Meanwhile, the Palestinian suffering and occupation continues. Merely a week ago a Palestinian child had been shot dead by the Israeli army, while protesting against illegal confiscation of land near Ramallah. The European Union pushed for an investigation, asking “How many more Palestinian children will be subject to the excessive use of lethal force by the Israeli security forces?”. Not only is Israel stealing land, but it is also killing Palestinians in the process who demonstrate against it. In addition, the health system in Gaza, blockaded by Israel, is collapsing and no COVID-19 tests can be carried out anymore. Thus, while countries are welcoming and celebrating the latest normalisation agreement with Israel, the Palestinians’ human rights are rejected and their daily lives are deteriorating.
Image: Wikimedia (Moroccan quarter in the old city of Jerusalem)