Israel said to mull recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara

Move would open door for Jerusalem and Rabat to upgrade to full diplomatic ties, Reuters reports, as national security adviser visits North African kingdom

A Moroccan army vehicle drives past car wreckage in Guerguerat, in Western Sahara, on November 24, 2020, after an intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. (Fadel Senna/AFP/File)
A Moroccan army vehicle drives past car wreckage in Guerguerat, in Western Sahara, on November 24, 2020, after an intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. (Fadel Senna/AFP/File)

The government is considering recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed region of Western Sahara, according to a Wednesday report.

The move could result in Israel and Morocco upgrading their ties, Reuters said, citing a diplomatic source.

The two countries’ diplomatic missions are currently liaison offices, but recognizing Western Sahara could allow for a full embassy presence. A free-trade agreement is also a possibility for the future.

A source in the cabinet told Reuters the plan was under discussion in the National Security Council.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi is in Morocco this week for a visit.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Morocco’s foreign ministry did not comment on the report.

Hanegbi met on Wednesday with Morocco’s foreign minister, Nasser Bourita, and top security officials. The two sides discussed strengthening cooperation in foreign affairs and defense, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Western Sahara is a sparsely populated desert region on the Atlantic coast that is adjacent to Morocco proper. The Polisario movement seeks independence from Morocco in the area and controls a part of the territory.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev (right) during a state visit, Rabat, Morocco, May 28, 2023. (Twitter)

Israel and Morocco have steadily built up their relationship since normalizing ties in 2020, part of a series of deals known as the Abraham Accords, backed by the administration of then-US president Donald Trump.

In exchange, Rabat won a key concession from Washington: recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Israel also forged ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as part of the accords.

Despite opposition from some sectors of the Moroccan public, ties have since continued to develop.

The two countries had established low-level diplomatic relations during the 1990s, following Israel’s interim peace accords with the Palestinians, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak in 2000 of the Second Intifada.

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said it had sent a delegation of troops to participate in a major American-led military drill held in Morocco and nearby African nations, a first for the Israeli army.

Last week, Transportation Minister Miri Regev signed three transportation deals to facilitate exchanges between Israel and Morocco while on a visit to the North African country.

The agreements will allow Israeli driver’s licenses to be used on the roads in Morocco, encourage direct shipping between the two countries, and facilitate exchanges related to road safety and transportation innovation.

Bilateral trade between Jerusalem and Rabat grew by a third in 2022, while some 200,000 Israelis visited Morocco, according to official figures. Some 700,000 Israelis are of Moroccan descent, and many have maintained strong ties.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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