Einat Levi: what role for Morocco after Gaza war ends?

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Israel and Morocco mark three years this week since renewing their relations, but the war between Israel and Hamas leaves no room for celebrations. For the time being, bilateral cooperation on the governmental level is limited and low profile, focusing mainly on security matters. Despite high expectations from the numerous visits by Israeli ministers and officials to Morocco these visits have not led to substantial cooperation beyond statements and memoranda of understanding. The lack of focus and the inability to materialize the dozens of signed agreements is evident these days, emphasizing what has not yet been implemented. For instance, an agreement for employing Moroccan migrant workers in Israel has not been signed yet, despite the statement made by the former Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in July 2022. The economic infrastructure for doing business between the countries has not been completed as well, including agreements such as a customs, double taxation avoidance, promotion and protection of investments, and other agreements that would enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of the trade channel between Morocco and Israel.

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Moroccan decision makers, for their part, appear to regard the ongoing war with Hamas, and no less so the current Israeli government, as detrimental to the resumption of relations between the countries to its positive course. Statements by senior Israeli officials calling for the destruction of Gaza, while vehemently opposing the establishment of a Palestinian state, echo in the Moroccan media, damage Israel’s image, and mainly serve opposition parties who wish to harm the special relations between the two countries. Nevertheless, Morocco’s official position regarding relations with Israel as a strategic interest remains intact. This was evidenced in the results of the extraordinary Arab Islamic Conference held in Riyadh last November, in which Morocco alongside other key Arab and Islamic countries were supporting the Palestinian cause and at the same time reluctant to embracing actual decisions or actions against their relations with Israel. Morocco’s decision to keep the Moroccan ambassador in Tel Aviv, despite the fact that the Israeli mission staff was evacuated from Rabat, is a significant statement in itself.

Three years after the resumption of official ties and in the shadow of the Gaza war challenges, the crisis also provides a new opportunity for regional and bilateral cooperation between Israel and Morocco


In the economic field, businesses more or less continue as usual. Israeli companies come to Morocco or meet their partners in third destinations such as France and Spain. This arrangement seems convenient for everyone, saving Israelis the flight to Morocco with its associated costs, and allowing the Moroccans relative discretion in their meetings with Israelis. However, the bilateral spaces for doing business have diminished, making economic connections more challenging, given Israeli concerns visiting Morocco and decreasing readiness to include Israeli speakers in conferences or set up pavilions for Israeli companies at exhibitions in Morocco.

Tourism is the most affected sector, with direct flights still on hold, and a travel warning in effect with a rating of three out of four, advising Israelis to avoid non-essential travel to this destination. As a result, Israeli tourism to Morocco, including Jewish tourism from around the world, has almost stopped entirely. Those who mainly pay the price are Israeli tourism agencies and Moroccan hotels and service providers that relied on the Israeli and Jewish market segments.

While tourism is a key to people-to-people connections, most civil and cultural partnerships are currently on hold and in a “waiting” situation until the end of the war. Despite the challenges, some joint initiatives can be preserved, finding creative ways to sustain them, such as transferring them from a bilateral framework to a multi-sided one under an American, European, Emirati or other umbrella, or conducting activities online whenever possible.

One of the main challenges in the civil context is the sentiment among Israelis of Moroccan descent regarding Morocco. It ranges from disappointment to astonishment and a lack of understanding in light of images of mass protests from Rabat and other cities in Morocco and even anti-Semitic incidents that do not receive official condemnation from Morocco. Here, it should be noted that Israeli frustration is partly due to cultural and behavioural differences between Israel and Morocco, despite their close cultural connection.

READ: Morocco’s Islamic party calls for a total boycott of Israel

In the Moroccan perspective, including that of decision-makers in Morocco, it is preferable to avoid conflicts, make explicit statements, and deal with matters quietly behind the scenes. In their view, the secrecy of action is a key to success, preserving internal stability and advancing a wishful agenda. In Morocco, non-action is considered, in practice, equivalent to any action, and perhaps even the most appropriate and challenging action of all.

Three years after the resumption of official ties and in the shadow of the Gaza war challenges, the crisis also provides a new opportunity for regional and bilateral cooperation between Israel and Morocco. Morocco’s relatively neutral position may in fact enable it to play an important role in the aftermath of the war. Morocco could help in reconstruction processes as part of a broader coalition and in implementing local and regional programs to deal with and prevent extremism and violence. Additionally, Morocco could host forums, meetings, and conferences to support the healing process of the unbearable collective traumas of Israelis and Palestinians, fostering people to people dialogue and understanding. These initiatives can in turn contribute to transforming the “mutual hurting stalemate” and setting the right ground and spirit to a sustainable solution to the conflict.

The good relations that Morocco maintains with both sides—Israeli and Palestinian—and the religious authority of HM King Mohammed VI, including his role as the chairman of the Jerusalem Committee in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, are just some of the assets Morocco can bring to this complex task. The connection with Morocco is a significant asset for Israel in times of peace and war alike. It is important that we learn from and derive insights from the past three years towards the new chapter in relations that will unfold after the war is over.

Einat Levi is a strategic advisor on Israeli Moroccan relations and a researcher at the Mitvim Institute for regional foreign policies. She has been on the track between the two countries for over a decade and previously led the economic and academic affairs in the Israeli Mission to Rabat. 


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