Morocco: behind-the-scenes diplomacy explains why the Kingdom has not refused hasty normalization with Israel


Morocco: behind-the-scenes diplomacy explains why the Kingdom has not refused hasty normalization with Israel.

By Irina Tsukerman and Anis El Okbani

The site “The Hill” published on 08/31/2020 an article by the former American ambassador to Morocco (from November 1997 to March 2001), Edward M. Gabriel in which he raiseda provocative question: Why has Morocco refused to normalize its relations with Israel?

Distinguished lobbyist and former US diplomat, Edward M. Gabriel apparently did not understand the software of the Moroccan makhzen (the royal system). In a speech filled with pathos, the diplomat proclaims himself both a diplomatic adviser and even a royal spokesperson. For those who love Moroccan jokes, including ones that are provocative and pregnant with political consequences, , we serve this one, in response to its counterpart quoted in the article “Diplomatic adviser, even a royal spokesman, Without the opinion of the makhzen: BLA KHBAR LMAKHZEN.”

Another reading of the article by Edward M. Gabriel
Gabriel will certainly be surprised by our reading grid for his article, which, once translated into Arabic by a site domiciled in London, was picked up, without citing the source, or providing any commentary, by a cohort of Moroccan dailies. Better still, an Arabic-speaking daily, whose owner is reputed to be, rightly or wrongly, close to the DGED (the Moroccan external intelligence), participated in this campaign of media pressure on the Moroccan sovereign. This is likely to sow confusion at the level of the Moroccan opinion.

Neither the quality of the author and his text, written according to the famous phrase of the French president “At the same time”, nor the timing, are innocent. Worse still, apparently, the Lobbyist Edward M. Gabriel boasts of his ideological convergence if not collusion with the Moroccan Islamists, since he raises in his text the same themes.

According to Edward M. Gabriel, Morocco’s decision not to normalize relations with Israel is “probably the result of two overriding considerations. The first reason consists in the support of King Mohammed VI for a solution of equitable peace and two States, between Israel and Palestine ”. He believes that a normalization agreement between Morocco and Israel may not support this option. The second reason, he cites, is that “acting during an election year in the United States probably dissuaded Morocco from making a hasty decision,” referencing the unpredictable political consequences of this finding on the reaction of the occupant of the White House during the electoral campaign.

Moreover, the diplomat stressed that the King of Morocco has “clearly expressed his point of view over the past twenty years with regard to Palestine and used his position as chairman of the Al-Quds Committee (Jerusalem) within of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to affirm firm support for a Palestinian state ”.
He recalled that the Palestinian cause received broad popular support in Morocco and that King Mohammed VI “would pay a heavy price if he was not able to obtain reasonable concessions in exchange for establishing relations with Israel. “. This statement sounds like a warning or could be interpreted as a threat! Indeed, Ambassador Gabriel is coming dangerously close to repeating the mistake of PM Othmani, who had recently waded in over his head by commenting on this issue and denying the possibility of normalization, despite knowing fully well that the foreign policy is the sole domain of the King.

He also referred to Morocco’s rejection of pressure from the Gulf countries for support for the Yemen war and a boycott of Qatar, describing the decision as “courageous”, especially since it comes from a country which benefits from their financial aid. Talking about stating the obvious! (He leaves out that Qatar is just as much a potential candidate for providing financial aid in response to non-interference in these issues!)
For Edward M. Gabriel, those who expected Morocco to be the second country after the United Arab Emirates to normalize its relations with Israel “clearly did not understand the king’s strong moral commitment to the Palestine”. That’s all that needs to be said.
The reader seeking in this article relevant explanations on the Moroccan royal diplomacy, even regarding the positions informed by the historical events and which are well established in known accounts, will remain hungry.
Everyone has to distinguish between information and position!

These three questions should be posed to Edward M. Gabriel and his media cohort.

  1. Is the timing innocent and coincidental?
  2. the same positions are being expressed as the Moroccan Islamists and the same themes. Fortuitous?
  3. The silence of the DGED, the DGST and other actors (political parties, parliamentarians, civil society, Moroccan Islamists, etc.). Such articles can also sometimes be test balloons to probe the reactions of partners in the normalization operation between Morocco and Israel, deliberately released by government officials or intelligence agencies. Edward M. Gabriel may be just a letter carrier, who has the privilege, by virtue of his status, of reading the “Message” before passing it on.

Bias: Our “Advocacy” to clarify the context and to participate in the debate

The spider web of the contradictions relating to Moroccan-Palestinian and Israeli relations is complex. The same goes for the management of the normalization file between Morocco and the Jewish state. The former US Ambassador cannot fathom this despite his intelligence background. All these connections encapsulate the story of a relationship that has a particular taste continuing to bind Moroccans, through families, spiritually, politically and emotionally, with the land of Palestine, its people, its cause, and with Israel and the Jewish community of Moroccan origin.

Although Morocco is considered the furthest border point from the State of Israel, there is a strong presence, especially in the city of Jerusalem through the historic Moroccan Gate (Bab al Marghariba) and through the institution “Bayt Mal Al Quds” where it finances projects to preserve Moroccan identity. In Israel, there is a community of more than a million Jews of Moroccan origin, which is the largest community in Israel after the Russians. Moreover, many of our Jews are still connected to their roots in Morocco; each year tens of thousands visit the land of their ancestors to celebrate several religious events related to holy places that still exist in most of the towns, villages and mountains of Morocco. The largest Jewish community in the Arab world also lives in Morocco.
There is not a single politician in Morocco who publicly dares to declare his relations with Israel or to push for normalization..

But the list goes on of those who do and secretly claim it in private. The reasons are various and include, but are not limited to, family, business, fear of the street, Islamists etc (see our book).
Morocco did not normalize its relations with Israel after the closure of the liaison office with it, and it risks waiting for understandable reasons, some of which were only briefly mentioned by the former American ambassador in his article. These reasons are cited. in a poorly defined context. Morocco is also among the countries most named by the Western media, and the Israeli-American media in particular, to join “the club of Arab normalizers” with Israel, a habit in the press circles since the signing of the first peace agreement between an Arab country, Egypt, and Israel, and everyone knows that Morocco played the role of the secret channel to prepare for it.

That agreement paved the way for the peace process between the Arabs and Israel. In Morocco, many “normalizers”, in particular Amazigh cultural activists and entrepreneurs of various backgrounds profess their support for normalization. And the unemployed youth which holds university degrees does not hide their desire to establish political, economic and cultural relations with Israel. On the other hand, there is not a single politician in Morocco who dares, publicly, to push for normalizing relations with Israel, fearing the reaction of the Moroccan street which is framed by the Islamists and in the absence of political and governmental program, the anti-normalization card is effective and influential, especially in an election year.

Behind the Scenes Diplomacy in International Relations.
Morocco: secret relations with Israel
At the same time, which is a Moroccan peculiarity, Morocco is considered among the most important Arab and Islamic countries that have had secret relations with Israel since the reign of the late King Hassan II, who loved and mastered behind-the-scenes diplomacy in international relations. And Morocco is one of the countries which had previously opened its doors openly to official visits by Israeli delegations, political and athletic, which participated in international meetings in the Moroccan cities of Fes, Meknes, Tangier, Assila, Kénitra, Rabat, Marrakech. , Agadir, Tangier, Dakhla, Essaouira, Settat, Beni Mellal, Demnat, midelt, Erfoud… the list is long.

Jewish saints and cemeteries are everywhere, guarded by Moroccans of the Muslim faith. This is Morocco too, for those seeking to understand the history of the Kingdom’s relations with its fellow Jews and Israel. More developments in our forthcoming book: The Underbelly of the Moroccan Kingdom’s Diplomacy: Between Issue, Crises and Challenges in religion and security