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King of Morocco congratulates Bennett on becoming PM; Putin thanks Netanyahu

PM praises kingdom as ‘important friend and partner,’ as his Moroccan counterpart invites Hamas chief to visit; Russian leader touts his years-long ties with the former premier

Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to a crowd as he arrives for the opening session of the Moroccan Parliament in Rabat, Morocco, on October 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)

King of Morocco Mohammed VI sent a letter of congratulations to new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in which he said the kingdom will continue to promote peace in the region, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Wednesday.

In his letter, the monarch said that Morocco will “continue its efforts to promote peace, justice and coexistence in the Middle East, which will ensure security, stability and brotherhood for all peoples living side by side.”

The letter also sent Bennett “warm greetings and best wishes for great success” following his entry into office this week.

In response, Bennett thanked the king for his letter and noted that “Israel sees Morocco as an important friend and partner in advancing peace and security in the region.”

According to the PMO’s statement, Bennett added that he will “work to reinforce Israeli-Moroccan relations in all areas, for the well-being and prosperity of both peoples, whose friendship has been long-standing.”

Morocco and Israel entered into a US-brokered normalization deal last year, following similar deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Israeli Envoy to Morocco David Govrin arrived in Rabat in February, and direct flights between the countries are expected to launch next month.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives at the president’s residence in Jerusalem for a group photo of the new government, June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

However, Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said Tuesday that a Hamas delegation led by the Gaza-ruling terror group’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was due to visit Morocco at the invitation of his Islamist Justice and Development party.

“The delegation will hold discussions with the leadership of the Justice and Development party regarding the latest developments in the Palestinian cause and how to support it. The visit will also include meetings with other political parties,” he said in a statement.

Last month, following an 11-day military conflict between Israel and Gaza, Othmani reportedly sent a personal message to Haniyeh congratulating him on his “victory” over the “Zionist entity.”

Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani delivers a speech during the opening session of the Opportunities For All economic conference in Marrakech, Morocco, January 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his appreciation for former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his exit from office.

The letter from Putin thanked Netanyahu for the “cooperation and mutual understanding between us for many years. I appreciate the great work you have invested in strengthening the ties between our nations in many areas,” he wrote, according to reports. “Your capabilities and experience will always be an asset to Israel.”

Netanyahu responded to the message on Twitter by thanking Putin for his comments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with a bouquet of flowers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 30, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool/AFP)

Putin and Netanyahu have met face-to-face many times over the course of their respective lengthy terms in office. The two have closely coordinated over Russian and Israeli activity in Syria, and Putin has often served as a mediator on Israel’s behalf.

In January 2020 — shortly before elections in March of that year — Netanyahu personally traveled to Moscow to escort home Naama Isaachar, who was sentenced to more than seven years on drug charges, and was freed after Putin’s intervention.

And in April 2019 — just days ahead of the election that month — Netanyahu announced that the body of Zachary Baumel, an IDF soldier missing since 1982, had been discovered and was being returned to Israel for burial. Putin said that Russia aided in the search for Baumel’s remains, and reports of other Russian efforts to recover the remains of other missing Israelis have circulated since then.

In 2018, relations between the leaders became strained when Syrian forces shot down a Russian plane amid an Israeli airstrike on the Latakia province of Syria, but their ties quickly recovered.

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