Lapid says relations are a 'top priority' for Israel

Lapid invites Moroccan foreign minister to Israel

Foreign Ministry director-general Alon Ushpiz delivers letter to Nasser Bourita, stressing importance of technological, economic ties

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz delivers a letter from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Rabat, July 7, 2021 (Reut Shafir Ben Naftali)
Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz delivers a letter from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Rabat, July 7, 2021 (Reut Shafir Ben Naftali)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has invited his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, to visit Israel.

The written invitation was delivered Wednesday by Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz, who met with Bourati in Rabat during an ongoing visit to the North African kingdom.

Lapid stressed in his letter to Bourita 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.

Lapid noted the opening of direct flights between the countries, expected to begin in a matter of weeks.

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 on Thursday, 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.”

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

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)

“We would like to thank the kings on 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.”

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

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.

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

On Sunday morning, 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.

It appeared to be at least the second time the RMAF cargo plane landed in Israel, the first time being in 1996 when it touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport, according to aviation enthusiast David Weinrich, who tracked that flight at the time.

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

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