Morocco and Israel’s normalization pave the way to end Sahara Dispute

Since the normalization of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and Israel in December (2020), the stable and hasty development of mutual ties has characterized contemporary interactions.

Though, The Trump decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara is a significant push in the political and legal framework. American Administration is the maker of modern history and the key actor in it at all levels, starting with geography by contributing to the liberation of European states, then reconstruction, economics, security, and politics.

In effect, America’s admission and recognition of the Moroccan Western Sahara is not a reciprocal reply to Morocco’s recognition of US soil, it is not an acquisition of Morocco and its support for it, and it is not a service for a return. America only reveals the reality of the geography that proves the Moroccan Sahara, the truth of history, which is promoted with testimonies that it is part of Moroccan soil, and the requirements of the law that ruled that it is purely Moroccan territorial.

In this regards, America’s recognition of the Moroccan Sahara and the diplomatic relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv showing that the Kingdom of Morocco is managing the stage responsibly and rationally, as it liberated the Guerguerat border crossing, and allowed to highlight that the case is related to a serious violation of UN resolutions, but rather a jeopardize to international peace and security in the Sahel region. Additionally, Morocco’s move allowed the international community to be aware of the situation and wrongdoing has practiced by the Polisario Front, which threatens international and regional stability and Moroccan interests. Thus the US position on the issue is mainly positive, and it is at the core of the American policy constants, which continued to emphasize the importance and seriousness of the autonomy project.

Understandably, the US appears more optimistic or even confident in resolving the current issue of the Western Sahara conflict. Yet, The American decision is based on an understanding of the requirements of the autonomy plan, which is consistent between independence and unity, is based on negotiation and dialogue, is based on power-sharing, allows citizens to maintain social development, and is based on historical considerations, as he pointed out the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, Trump Administration relied on previous positions particularly Clinton and Obama’s perception, especially concerning the autonomy plan.

While the other side has not abandoned its traditional stances, explaining that a group of countries that have opened their consulates in the Moroccan Sahara, and international positions in support of Morocco’s move in Guerguerat crossing, are all indications that the United State of America, not the only is convinced of Morocco’s proposal, but the entire globe has come to believe in the Moroccan autonomy plan. Therefore, the US position will have an impact on the Moroccan Western Sahara file, given that America is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the capabilities associated with implementing decisions. America has always been with Morocco as a Strategic ally in North Africa, and its role will be greater in terms of influencing America’s allies to follow his position.

In light of this, the American recognition holds Algeria responsible for the Polisario attacks on Morocco, and this historic declaration will change the nature of the Polisario militia attack to consider it a terrorist organization or condemn Algeria within the framework of the International Convention for the Use of Mercenaries to undermine Moroccan sovereignty. Accordingly, the US declaration is also seen as exclusive to resolving this long-running conflict only with the return of Moroccan Sahrawi refugees from Algeria. Because the conflict in the Moroccan Sahara is limited to the issue of the return of Moroccans in the Tindouf camps to Morocco within the framework of the 1951 Geneva Convention, by returning under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United Nations for Refugees.

Frankly speaking, The Palestinian case is a national issue for Moroccans, referring to the major meetings related to solidarity with the Palestinian people. The kingdom of Morocco also played a significant role in organizing large gatherings, and its role was balanced on the level of two-states solution as a successful peace agreement. Though the Palestinian issue remains an important matter to the Moroccan monarchy and that ties sustain strong between the two parties. 

Responding to normalize its relations with Israel, The kingdom of Morocco has gone after by Arab Middle East countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan in recent months and with no change in the Palestinian case. As well there is no objection that it will steer to one. As proof, none of the Arab Middle East states have used their decision to constraint Israel back into peace talks with the Palestinian people. Thus, the Kingdom is positioning itself as a mediator between Palestinians and Israelis. Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that Morocco is simply resuming flights, association offices, and diplomatic connections with Israel.

Domestically, Moroccan scholars, intellectuals, and politicians are divided on this issue. Some have acknowledged that normalizing relations with Israel formalize its existing roots and traditional relationship. In particular, there are one million Israeli people originally Moroccans, and more than that Jewish community is the second-biggest community in Morocco. For instance, there’s an existing trade and economic cooperation between both states in terms of advanced technologies and military capacities. Others sought that Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara is legitimate and that the kingdom does not need recognition from the United States nor normalization of ties with Israel.  The Moroccan government descries that public opinions are not ready to handle the case as a zero-sum game. Several Moroccans, who advocate both Kingdom’s claim over conflicted Western Sahara and the Palestinian cause, may acknowledge the agreement as both an unnecessary move, because of that they already consider Morocco’s claim as legitimate and deception of the Palestinians. 

Internationally, Morocco’s policy-making is very cautious, conservative, and consensus-driven, for its central concern is its economic interest and national stability which has been seen as the key issue to the security of the Kingdom and the legitimacy of the ruling monarchy. The pace of the geopolitics transformation of North Africa has surprised it, and it has tried to decide what to do next. Yet, Morocco’s short-term objective remains mainly unexplained. But it seems inevitable that the Kingdom’s of Morocco basic interests will lead it to far greater involvement in the Northern African region, all the more so Polisario Front withdraws. Israel will remain an American ally, and this alliance strictly delimits the scope of Morocco-Israeli.

Due to this, The more dangerous prospect to the Kingdom of Morocco comes from the rise of Islamist extremism that has worried Rabat. At least a hundred or even many more Moroccan Sahrawis are reportedly fighting with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or (AQIM), presumably to acquire terrorist skills to bring back home to Morocco’s homeland. Moroccan Security experts have a very low opinion of the Joe Biden new administration’s approach to dealing with (AQIM), but they did not have an alternative policy. Surely, there is a contingency for low-profile but significant security cooperation between Israel and Morocco.

Realistically, unlike Western foreign policies, which normally prioritize political issues and normal relations, Moroccan foreign policy pays attention to sovereignty and homeland security issues. This is consistent with the Kingdom’s adherence to non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. The Kingdom of Morocco and Israel have worked closely with the development based on terms of “friendship and cooperation”.
In sum, The Kingdom of Morocco and Israel normalization is a component process based on strategic partnership, friendship, and compromise. Morocco and Israel have shaped their strategic relations in a positive sense due to their long-term perspectives. Thus, their cooperation in the North African and Maghreb region would be more motivated and pragmatic. Yet, Let’s see how the leadership and partnership in Morocco react to their Jewish Moroccan brother’s needs in Tel Aviv taking a new path into national reform and international openness transparency.

Jamal Laadam
Jamal Laadam
Dr. Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in North African and Western Sahara Issue, at Jilin University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).