Moroccan delegation arrives in Israel

The delegation, which landed in Israel on Sunday night, plans to work towards reopening the Moroccan liaison office in Tel Aviv.

First-ever El Al flight to Morocco about to take off from TLV (photo credit: SIVAN FARAJ)
First-ever El Al flight to Morocco about to take off from TLV
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAJ)
A Moroccan delegation is visiting Israel for the first time since normalization between the countries was announced earlier this month.
The three-person delegation landed in Israel on Sunday night to handle logistics ahead of reopening the Moroccan liaison office in Tel Aviv, which it has maintained for the past 20 years since Rabat cut official ties. Israel has also retained its closed office in Morocco.
During last week’s visit to Rabat in which White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner led an Israeli-US delegation, the countries committed to reopening the offices within two weeks, which would mean next week.
The Moroccan delegation is also expected to prepare for a high-level delegation to come to Israel at a later date still to be undetermined.
The Moroccan diplomats have meetings scheduled in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, but their low-key visit does not include any public events or statements.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to visit Israel in a phone conversation over the weekend. His office characterized the conversation, in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic, as “warm and friendly.”
“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Netanyahu told the king, quoting from the movie Casablanca.
Also on Monday, Economy Minister Amir Peretz spoke with his Moroccan counterpart, Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Moulay Hafid Elalamy, to discuss economic cooperation.
Peretz began the meeting by telling Elalamy that he was especially proud to speak with him because he was born in Morocco and immigrated to Israel when he was four years old. The two agreed to establish a team to develop a cooperation plan, and to speak again in two weeks.
The US-Israeli delegation last week took the first-ever direct flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat. Israel and Morocco signed four bilateral agreements on civil aviation, visa exemption for official passport holders, water and finance.
Morocco re-established diplomatic relations with Israel in December, within the framework of the Abraham Accords, through which the US had also negotiated normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
The US recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed former Spanish colony, making it the first country other than Morocco to do so.
Israel and Morocco first forged diplomatic relations in 1994, though the countries had unofficial relations for decades before that. They did not have full diplomatic ties, and the new relations are resuming from that point, moving toward full diplomatic relations.
Morocco broke off ties with Israel during the Second Intifada in 2000, but in recent years, tens of thousands of Israelis have visited the North African state annually. Morocco’s Tourism Minister told Yediot Aharonot this week that she would like to see that number reach 200,000.
An estimated one million Israeli Jews have roots in Morocco.
In his conversation with Netanyahu, Mohammed emphasized the importance of the ties between his country and Jews of Moroccan origin.
Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc (RAM) will begin direct flights to Israel in January, according to Moroccan news site Le360, citing unnamed sources.
According to the report, RAM will fly between Casablanca and Tel Aviv four times a week. Tickets for the five-and-a-half-hour flight will cost a bit more than $400, it said.
El Al, Israel’s national carrier, is expected to announce flights to Casablanca soon as well.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.