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Palestinian wants to stop Morocco from embracing Israel

Oped

Palestinian wants to stop Morocco from embracing Israel

Palestinian wants to stop Morocco from embracing Israel

Hugh Fitzgerald

After the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to normalize ties with Israel, the Palestinians were quick to display their rage. From both PA and Hamas leaders there were claims that the Palestinians had been “betrayed” and “stabbed in the back.” Palestinian protesters both in Gaza and the West Bank defaced and burned images of Emirati and Bahraini leaders and flags. But all this fury in turn provoked anger against the Palestinians in both countries. When the PA demanded that the Arab League denounce the UAE and Bahrain, it was turned down flat. At that point, realizing it would be wiser to soften its criticism, the PA turned off the spigot of invective. But not for long.

With Morocco’s announcement that it, too, was normalizing ties with Israel, the Palestinians are back to their previous denunciations. That story is here: “Fuming, Palestinians denounce Israel-Morocco peace deal as ‘betrayal,’” Israel Hayom, December 11, 2020:

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday strongly condemned the peace deal between Morocco and Israel, calling the move “unacceptable” and a “betrayal.”

Moroccan King Mohammmed [sic] has assured PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call that Rabat stands by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a royal court statement said. The king added that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are the only way to reach a final, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

The Moroccan king did just as the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Bahraini king had done – reassure Mahmoud Abbas with the off-the-rack phrases that he still supported a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But the fact remains that Morocco, like the UAE and Bahrain, has not waited for that so-called “solution” – an independent Palestinian state, with Israel squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines – to normalize relations, and obtain the considerable benefits such normalization brings. In the case of Morocco, this has meant the American government has now recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. In addition, it is about to approve the sale of advanced aerial drones to the Moroccan military. And finally, the American government may invest $3 billion dollars in the Moroccan economy. That’s quite a considerable quid for the quo of normalizing relations with Israel.

But Bassam as-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, condemned the deal, as Palestinian officials did with the earlier Israeli normalization accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

“Any Arab retreat from the [2002] Arab peace initiative, which stipulates that normalization comes only after Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, is unacceptable and increases Israel’s belligerence and its denial of the Palestinian people’s rights,” Salhi said.

The Palestinians still don’t get it. These Arab states are intent on pursuing their own national interests, and won’t be held back by Palestinian obstructionists who care only for themselves. There was too much for Morocco to gain from this deal for Palestinian invective to stop Rabat from normalizing ties with Israel.

Door after door is being slammed in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ face

In Gaza, Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the coastal enclave, and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad both condemn Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel, with both terrorist groups slamming it as a “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause.

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem called the decision “a sin.”

“This sin does not serve the Palestinian cause, and the occupation exploits every act of normalization to increase its aggressive policies against our people. The Israeli occupation uses every new normalization to increase its aggression against the Palestinian people and increase its settlement expansion,” he said.

Normalization by Morocco with the Israeli occupation is a betrayal of Jerusalem and of Palestine,” a statement by the Islamic Jihad said. “We trust that the Moroccan people will utterly refuse this normalization.”

I think the Moroccan people are already celebrating their diplomatic victory: at long last, another state, the most powerful one in the world, has agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. This is a major diplomatic achievement.

Meanwhile, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates welcomed the news that Israel and Morocco are to establish full diplomatic ties.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi issued a statement saying, “I followed with great interest the important development regarding the agreement between Morocco and Israel to normalize relations between them with American mediation. If this step bears fruit, it would create further stability and cooperation in our region.”

Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan tweeted, “We welcome the United States ‘declaration of recognition of the brotherly Morocco’s sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara, and the decision of Rabat to resume contacts and diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. [This is] a sovereign step that contributes to strengthening our common quest for stability, prosperity, and just and lasting peace in the region.”

Bahrain lauded the deal as well but chose to focus on Morocco’s diplomatic victory, rather than the decision to normalize ties with Israel.

King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa’s office issued a statement saying that he “welcomed the recognition by the United States of America of the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco over the Moroccan Sahara region and the opening of a US consulate in the city of Dakhla.”

Since both Abu Dhabi’s Crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Bahrain’s King Hamad have welcomed American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara, and Egyptian leader General El-Sisi has expressed his approval of the agreement as a whole, one assumes that the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt will now follow the American example and, at long last, themselves agree to recognize Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara. And if they do so, will this not start a cascade of other Arab states doing likewise? Morocco will have gained a great diplomatic triumph, one that it has long sought, in having its sovereignty recognized by a widening gyre of states.

Morocco also stands to gain greater access to advanced American weaponry. Apparently the American government is just about to authorize the sale to Morocco of four advanced aerial drones, the MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, which it has never before sold abroad. The timing of this approval, which coincides with the announcement of Morocco’s normalization of ties with Israel, is hardly coincidental.

Finally, there is a report from Washington indicating that the International Development Finance Corporation, a US government body formed last year by President Donald Trump, was now considering investments worth up to $3 billion that would be earmarked for Moroccan banks and hotels, as well as for a renewable energy company belonging to King Mohammed VI of Morocco himself. American officials deny that there is any connection between these possible investments and the normalization of Moroccan-Israeli ties. That seems highly unlikely.

Morocco has made out like gangbusters in its diplomatic coup. Its sovereignty over the Western Sahara is now recognized by the United States; it is being allowed to buy the most advanced aerial drones from America for its military; finally, it will likely receive $3 billion in American investments in Moroccan banks and hotels (and in King Muhammad VI’s own solar energy company). This in itself is quite an achievement. In addition, there is the economic boost Morocco will receive from Israeli investors, businessmen, high tech entrepreneurs, and specialists willing to share their expertise, in everything from agriculture to cybersecurity, with Moroccan partners. Just look at the dozens of Emirati-Israeli business deals of all kinds, signed in the first two months following the Knesset’s ratifying the Emirati-Israel agreement on October 15.Given the huge population of Moroccan Jews in Israel who could serve as human conduits and facilitators, I would expect business—trade, technology, tourism –between Morocco and Israel to similarly flourish.

Mahmoud Abbas is again raging impotently in Ramallah. So are his PA cronies and spokesmen. Another Arab state – the fourth –has just decided to normalize ties with Israel. That makes six Arab states that have made peace with the Jewish state. He can’t stop this cascade of Arab states determined to pursue not his, but their national interests. A “betrayal,” a “stabbing in the back,” a “sin” against the Palestinians – none of this hysterical invective has worked. It failed to stop the UAE, Bahrain, the Sudan, and now Morocco, from normalizing ties.

The latest news, just in, suggests that a fifth prospect for normalization of ties with Israel may be getting ready for its close-up. Oman has commented favorably on the Moroccan deal: “(Oman) welcomes what Morocco’s King Mohammed VI announced in his phone calls with US President Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and hopes this will further endeavors to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” the statement said, without specifically mentioning what had been announced. Oman’s late Sultan Qaboos invited Prime Minister Netanyahu for friendly talks in Oman in 2019; there are now feelers that have gone out to Oman from the Americans and Israelis about a possible normalization; perhaps before Trump leaves office, he will have managed yet another diplomatic triumph, this time with Oman.

And still he will be begrudged by so many, who fail to recognize that he has done more to promote Israel’s security, and the well-being of — so far — four Arab states, and peace (through deterrence) in the Middle East, than any president in history. That’s something not only for historians, when they study the Trump presidency, but for all of us, to ponder.

Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on WeeklyBlitz.net

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