Direct flights to resume later this month

Lapid confirms he’ll visit Morocco, in first for an Israeli FM

Top diplomat tells Yesh Atid faction meeting that his counterpart from Rabat will then visit Israel to open missions

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Head of the Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid confirmed on Monday afternoon that he will travel to Morocco for an official visit, and that his Moroccan counterpart will visit Israel.

Speaking at a Yesh Atid faction meeting in the Knesset, Lapid said the “historic” trip will take place following the renewal of direct flights between Rabat and Tel Aviv later this month.

“After my trip to Morocco, [Moroccan Foreign] Minister [Nasser] Bourita will come visit Israel to open missions here,” added Lapid.

Lapid’s spokesman told the Times of Israel that the details of the trip have yet to be finalized.

Lapid’s visit will be the first for an Israeli foreign minister.

After a 20-year lull in diplomatic relations, Israel and Morocco renewed their ties late last year, amid a wave of normalization agreements between Jerusalem and Arab countries.

Earlier this month, Lapid invited Bourita to visit Israel.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita at a press conference after holding talks with his Spanish counterpart, in Rabat, Morocco, June 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

While Jerusalem and Rabat did not in the past have full relations — with diplomatic offices in each other’s capitals instead of embassies — they maintained close official ties until Morocco suspended them with the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.

In late June, Lapid made a historic trip to the UAE to open the Israeli embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai.

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz was in the North African kingdom two weeks ago and delivered Lapid’s written invitation during his meeting with Bourita.

Lapid stressed in his letter that restoring ties between Israel and Morocco was a historical milestone. Israel’s top diplomat also expressed his desire to make progress in bilateral cooperation in the fields of trade, technology, culture and tourism.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) in Rome, June 27, 2021 (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In a statement, Lapid said the invitation showed that the establishment of diplomatic relations and direct connections between the two countries and their citizens was “a top priority” for Israel.

“I thank His Majesty, King Muhammad VI, for the leadership and inspiration he gave to the process,” Lapid said. “I look forward to strengthening the political ties between Israel and Morocco and to building economic, technological, cultural and tourism cooperation between the two countries.”

Alon Ushpiz, director general of the Foreign Ministry, signs the guest book at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat, Morocco, July 7, 2021. (Courtesy)

The comments came after Ushpiz visited the tombs of former Moroccan kings Mohammed V and his son King Hassan II, the current monarch’s father.

“We would like to thank the kings in Morocco… for their friendship and support of the Jews of Morocco throughout history, a legacy that his majesty King Mohammed VI is carrying on,” Ushpiz wrote in the guest book in both Hebrew and Arabic.

He added: “The tradition of tolerance and moderation that has been left to us and the next generations is an inspiration for the renewal of ties between Israel and Morocco.”

Israeli national security Adviser speaks to a press at the royal palace in Rabat, Morocco, December 22, 2020. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Also this month, a Moroccan air force plane touched down in Israel’s Hatzor Air Base, reportedly to take part in a multinational Israeli Air Force exercise later this month.

The highly unusual landing of the Royal Moroccan Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the Hatzor Air Base near Ashdod was visible on public flight-tracking software, where it was quickly spotted by a number of amateur radar watchers, one of whom shared the information with The Times of Israel.

Judah Ari Gross and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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