King Mohammed VI of Morocco is leading the way to peace - opinion

The State of Israel has always viewed Morocco as a moderate Arab nation that has immense influence within the Arab world.

AN EL AL airliner displays the Israeli, Moroccan and US flags last week as it arrives in Rabat. (photo credit: US EMBASSY IN MOROCCO/REUTERS)
AN EL AL airliner displays the Israeli, Moroccan and US flags last week as it arrives in Rabat.
The recent signing of the peace agreement between Israel and Morocco was an historic breakthrough. This step was not, however, the result of recent efforts made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the product of decades of cooperation carried out behind the scenes and far away from the camera lens.
Israel’s normalizing relations with the royal palace and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has been a work in progress for many years now. These efforts became public knowledge when the late prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin openly visited Morocco, which culminated with the opening of liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat. The liaison office in Tel Aviv was later shuttered for political reasons, namely the outbreak of the Second Intifada and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the two countries have continued to maintain unofficial relations during the interim years.
Israel’s security establishment, including the Mossad, has maintained – and continues to maintain – ongoing contact with Morocco with the aim of strengthening moderate forces in North Africa and assisting in the collaborative fight against global terrorism led by Iran.
Morocco is currently waging an uncompromising struggle for international recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara region. It has been facing terrorist attacks from the Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, which receives official support from Algeria and Iran, as well as from Hezbollah forces that recently infiltrated the region and are aiding in the training and arming of Polisario Front fighters.
The State of Israel has always viewed Morocco as a moderate Arab nation that has immense influence within the Arab world, and King Mohammed VI’s esteem among world leaders, as well as his special status within the Arab League, constitute a tremendous political and strategic advantage for Israel.
The king’s order in May 2018 to bring home Morocco’s ambassador to Iran and to expel Iran’s ambassador in Rabat was a clear sign of the king’s seriousness in the fight against global terrorism – which is being led by Iran, together with Hezbollah.
Two and a half years ago, I was asked to intercede on behalf of Morocco in its quest for recognition by the world’s leading power – the US – of its control over the Western Sahara, on the grounds that Morocco has a genuine desire to carry out development and grant rights to local residents (known as the autonomy plan). The Moroccans knew that the key to the White House and the quickest path to Washington were through Jerusalem.
I accepted the plea for help, but only after confirming that American recognition would be contingent upon Morocco agreeing to upgrade diplomatic relations with the State of Israel, reopening its liaison office in Tel Aviv and approving direct flights between Israel and Morocco. In order to verify the proposal, I held meetings with high-level Moroccan officials and heard from them firsthand that the king was indeed interested in putting this plan into action.
I approached a number of senior US government officials, and we immediately set up meetings at the White House with Jason Greenblatt, the Middle East adviser to the US president, as well as with National Security Council and State Department representatives. Everyone involved understood the advantages and approved of the initiative.
There’s no doubt that this breakthrough will have a host of geostrategic implications in the fields of economics, trade, agriculture, water issues and energy, and, of course, in security and political matters.
Having ties to King Mohammed VI, as the leader of the moderate Arab world, will have a direct impact on the national security of the State of Israel and will strengthen the country’s position vis-à-vis other Arab countries. This strategy will continue to have a positive impact, including the way Morocco allows all of its citizens freedom of worship, regardless of their religion. Moreover, the king has an especially warm relationship with the country’s Jewish community, and the more than one million Israelis whose families hail from Morocco have fond memories of and a longing for the homes they left behind.
Unlike its relationships with other Arab countries, Morocco shares a close connection with Israel and the two nations have many common values that have anchored them in their longstanding relationship.
From conversations and meetings I held with Moroccan officials, I’ve come to understand that King Mohammed VI is genuinely interested in establishing a truly peaceful, warm and courageous relationship with Israel. His unique leadership will lead to a steadfast relationship with Israel and the possibility of reinstating diplomatic relations in the near future.
We must not forget, though, that Morocco has made a sincere and genuine commitment to promoting peace in the region and to bringing about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the framework of a two-state solution, which in my opinion, there is no excuse for not implementing.
The writer serves as an MK for the Yesh Atid Party. He served as deputy head of the Mossad and director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.