Israel and Morocco will open embassies in each other’s countries in two months, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in Rabat on Thursday.
Lapid said he and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita agreed to further upgrade diplomatic ties, which they restored to the level of liaison offices in December.
Bourita is expected to dedicate the Moroccan Embassy in Israel in October or November, depending on the pandemic. His visit to Israel will be on the first direct Royal Morocco flight to Israel, Lapid said.
“Strategically, what we are creating here and what we are creating in recent months is a diplomatic access,” Lapid explained. “Think of it as a kind of a circle of Israel and Morocco and Egypt and Jordan and in some ways you can say Cyprus and Greece, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates. All of the countries that are religiously moderate with truly infinite economic potential. This creates a pragmatic alternative to religious extremism and builds a constant diplomatic dialogue.”
Morocco, Lapid said, is an especially important country in this process, as a leading country in Africa with a tradition of being moderate and stable.
Earlier, Lapid dedicated the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat, which reopened earlier this year 20 years after Israel and Morocco broke off diplomatic relations.
Lapid and Moroccan Deputy Foreign Minister Mohcine Jazouli cut the ribbon to the office, and Ambassador David Govrin, head of the Liaison Office, affixed a mezuzah to its door.
The foreign minister’s visit to Morocco was the first by a senior Israeli official since the two countries renewed ties in December. Lapid is the first Israeli foreign minister to visit Morocco since Silvan Shalom, who tried to bring about normalization in 2003.
During his meeting with Bourita on Wednesday, Lapid relayed an invitation from President Isaac Herzog to Moroccan King Muhammad VI to Israel.
“Allow me to express my sincere appreciation for Your Majesty’s decision to establish full diplomatic, peaceful and friendly relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and the State of Israel,” Herzog wrote. “We are committed to deepening the strength of our relations and hope that they further expand and flourish over time.”
Herzog expressed admiration for the king’s “groundbreaking contribution to Arab-Israeli reconciliation in many countries across our region,” and appreciation for the royal family’s “commitment... to guarantee the safety and security of the Jews in your country throughout the years... a cherished symbol of solidarity.”
Bourita said that Lapid’s visit “reflects the commitment of our two countries to strengthen our bilateral relations and give them concrete impetus through the establishment of effective cooperation mechanisms.
“Since the signing last December of the Tripartite Agreement between Morocco-US-Israel, a positive dynamic between the two countries led to the creation of five working teams covering promising sectors, such as R&D, tourism and agriculture,” Bourita added.
The Moroccan foreign minister also said that King Muhammad VI called to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians toward a two-state solution.
Lapid said Israel and Morocco are reviving a centuries-old friendship between the Jewish people and the people of Morocco by restoring diplomatic relations.
“This ancient peace and friendship is being restored by people who rethink and redefine historic disputes,” Lapid said, thanking Moroccan King Mohammed VI for his “vision and courage.”
Lapid quoted Maimonides, who lived in the Moroccan city of Fez, as saying in his Eight Chapters: “Every state can be changed from good to evil and from evil to good if he – the person – decides so. Reality is not set. Reality is a choice we make. For too many years, we let others choose the path of war. Today, we take destiny into our own hands and choose the way of peace. Today, we choose the path set out by Maimonides.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Lapid’s visit and the reopening of the Israeli Liaison Office in Rabat, calling it “significant for Israel, Morocco, and the broader region.”
“The United States will continue to work with Israel and Morocco to strengthen all aspects of our partnerships and create a more peaceful, secure and prosperous future for all the people of the Middle East,” Blinken stated.
Accompanying Lapid were Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen, who was born in Morocco, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ram Ben Barak, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, and Dr. Inbar Zucker, a senior Health Ministry official. Singer Shimon Buskila, whose parents were born in Morocco and who sings in both Moroccan Arabic and Hebrew, joined the delegation and plans to perform for the Jewish community.
Morocco and Israel previously had low-level ties after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, which were suspended after the Second Intifada began in 2000. However, relations grew closer in recent years, especially in countering threats from Iran.
There are about one million Israelis who are descendants from the Moroccan Jewish community, tens of thousands of whom visited annually even before the Abraham Accords.