July 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

King of Morocco Invites Israeli Prime Minister to Visit 

July 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

King of Morocco Invites Israeli Prime Minister to Visit 

Latest Developments 

Morocco’s King Muhammad VI invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 19 to visit him in Rabat. The invitation comes two days after Jerusalem announced that it recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, further solidifying ties between the two nations. Meanwhile, a Moroccan official reportedly said that it was “in the process” of upgrading its Tel Aviv liaison office to embassy status.  

On July 18, a spokesperson for the State Department described the increased Israeli-Moroccan cooperation as an “unequivocal positive for the region,” and stated that U.S. policy recognizing the Western Sahara as part of Morocco has not changed since 2020. Morocco and Israel first normalized ties in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords

Expert Analysis 

“People- to- people ties have already made this peace warmer than most observers realize. These recent moves by Morocco and Israel are a sign that the ties continue to build in a positive direction. The next frontier is security. If the two sides move in that direction, this relationship could emerge as Israel’s warmest peace in the Middle East.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research 

“Cooperation between Jerusalem and Morocco, the Arab world’s fifth most populous state, will likely continue to grow due to shared military and economic interests. Rabat fears Iran’s support for the Polisario Front in the Western Sahara conflict, and understands that Israeli arms can strengthen its military. Israel’s booming economy also stands to benefit Morocco’s commercial growth.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow 

Growing Ties 

Morocco’s invitation to Netanyahu comes in the wake of growing ties between Rabat and Jerusalem over the past three months. In May, the two governments signed three transportation deals to recognize each other’s driver licenses, facilitate maritime trade, and encourage collaboration on road safety. By early June, IDF soldiers participated for the first time in the African Lion multinational military exercise in Morocco.  

In mid-June, Amir Ohana became the first Knesset speaker to receive an invitation to visit the parliament of a Muslim country. In the same month, the two countries also agreed to ease visa requirements in order to boost tourism and allow Moroccans to work in Israel. In early July, media reports indicated that Morocco plans to procure Merkava tanks from Israel to bolster its defense capabilities. 

A Longstanding Conflict 

The Western Sahara continues to be one of Africa’s longest-running territorial disputes, where Morocco has fought the Polisairio Front since 1973. Since 1980, the Islamic Republic of Iran has voiced support for the Polisario Front’s efforts. 

In 2009, Rabat severed diplomatic relations with Iran after accusing the regime of spreading Shiism in Morocco. Both governments agreed to restore ties in 2014. In 2017, Morocco arrested a key financier of Hezbollah in Casablanca whom the U.S. Treasury Department had sanctioned. By 2018, Morocco and Iran cut diplomatic ties again after Rabat accused Tehran and its proxy Hezbollah of supporting the Polisario Front with arms and military training


Arab Politics Israel