Israel’s Recognition of the Moroccan Sahara: The outcome of strategic cooperation

On the 17th of July 2023, Israeli president Binyamin Netanyahu and his government officially recognized Moroccan Sahara as legitime Moroccan Kingdom territory. Since the normalization of diplomatic relations between Rabat and Israel in December (2020), the steady and rapid development of mutual relations has stamped contemporary interactions.

Yet, Israel’s recognition of the Moroccan Sahara is not a mutual refund to Morocco’s recognition of Israel’s country, it is not an acquisition of Rabat and its support for it, and it is not a service for a return. Israel state 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 land, and the requirements of the law that ruled that it is purely Moroccan territorial.

In foreign affairs, Israel’s current recognition of the Moroccan Sahara and the diplomatic relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv show that the Kingdom of Morocco is managing the regional stage responsibly and rationally, as it liberated the Guerguerat border crossing a year ago, and allowed to underline that the case is related to a serious violation of UN resolutions, but rather a endanger to international peace and security in the North African as well as Sahel region. Furthermore, Morocco’s move allowed the global community to be aware of the issue and wrongdoing practiced by the Polisario Front (Militia), which imperils international and regional stability and Moroccan national interests. Therefore Tel Aviv’s current position on the issue is favorable, and it is at the center of Tel Aviv’s policy constants, which sustained to underline the importance and gravity of the autonomy project.

The Netanyahu decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Southern provinces [ Moroccan Sahara ] is a substantial push in the political and legal Agenda. Netanyahu’s government is the maker of recent history and the key actor in it at all stages, starting with geography by contributing to the liberation of European states, then reconstruction, economics, politics, and defense.

Diplomatically speaking, the Tel Aviv approach appears more helpful and assertive in undertaking the current issue of the Moroccan Sahara dispute. Yet, The Israeli outcome is based on an understanding of the requirements of the autonomy plan, which is consistent between independence and unity, is focused on negotiation and dialogue, is based on power-sharing, allows citizens to sustain social development, and is depend on historical considerations, as he pointed out the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile, Netanyahu Administration relied on previous positions particularly American stands; Clinton and Obama’s perception, especially concerning the autonomy plan 2007.

Unlike the US administration which has not abandoned its traditional stances, elucidating that many states that have opened their consulates in the Moroccan Sahara, particularly in Dakhla and Laayoune city, 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  and Israel’s position will have an impact on the Moroccan Sahara file, given that America is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the capabilities associated with implementing decisions. Recently Israel has always been with the Kingdom of Morocco as a Strategic ally in North Africa as well as Arab countries, and its role will be greater in terms of influencing Tel Aviv’s allies to follow his position.

For sure, normalize its relations with Israel, The kingdom of Morocco has gone after Arab Middle East states such as the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan in the last year, 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 constrain Israel back into peace talks with the Palestinian people. Consequently, Rabat is positioning itself as a mediator between Palestinians and Israelis. Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlights that the Kingdom of Morocco is simply resuming flights, association and communication offices, and diplomatic connections with Israel.

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

All in all, Israel’s recognition of the Moroccan Sahara is a component process based on strategic partnership and friendship. Morocco and Tel Aviv have formed their strategic ties in an optimistic sense due to their long-term perceptions. Hence, their strategic cooperation in the North African and Maghreb region would be more motivated and pragmatic. Yet, Let’s predict how the leadership and partnership in Morocco react to their Jewish Moroccan brother’s needs in Tel Aviv taking a new approach to national reform and international openness visibility.

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).