Netanyahu has ‘friendly’ call with king of Morocco, invites him to visit Israel

In first conversation since normalization announcement, leaders discuss ways to advance deal; king stresses warm ties with Jewish community, unwavering position on Palestinians

Left: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Nov. 19, 2020; Right: Morocco's King Mohammed VI in Paris, May 2, 2017 (AP Photos/Maya Alleruzzo, Michel Euler)
Left: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Nov. 19, 2020; Right: Morocco's King Mohammed VI in Paris, May 2, 2017 (AP Photos/Maya Alleruzzo, Michel Euler)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Friday for the first time since the two countries agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations earlier this month.

The two leaders congratulated one another on the agreement brokered by US President Donald Trump, which included the White House agreeing to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

During the “warm and friendly” conversation, Netanyahu extended an invitation for King Mohammed VI to visit Israel and the two agreed to continue contacts in order to advance the normalization agreement in the weeks ahead, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The leaders congratulated each other over the renewal of ties between the countries, the signing of the joint statement with the US, and the agreements between the two countries,” according to the statement from Netanyahu’s office.

“In addition, the processes and mechanisms to implement the agreements were determined,” it added.

The Moroccan king’s royal office issued a statement saying that, in his conversation with Netanyahu, the monarch recalled “the strong and special ties” between the Jewish community in Morocco and the monarchy, and reiterated “the consistent, unwavering and unchanged position of the Kingdom of Morocco on the Palestinian issue and the pioneering role of the kingdom in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.”

On Wednesday, Morocco’s tourism minister announced that direct flights will begin operating between Israel and Morocco within two or three months.

A joint Israeli-American delegation visited Morocco on Tuesday to sign several bilateral agreements and a trilateral declaration to solidify the normalization agreement.

The group’s flight to Rabat was the first direct commercial flight from Israel to Morocco.

US Presidential adviser Jared Kushner, center, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, center-right, arrive at the Royal Palace in the Moroccan capital Rabat, December 22, 2020. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

The delegation held high-level talks with Moroccan officials, including King Mohammed VI, and Israel and Morocco announced they would move to swiftly reopen diplomatic missions in each country. The two countries previously operated liaison offices in each other’s lands which were closed some 20 years ago.

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat led the delegation.

Morocco was the third Arab state this year to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals, joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Sudan has also announced plans to normalize ties with Israel, though no official agreements have been signed.

Morocco is home to North Africa’s largest Jewish community, which has been there since ancient times and grew with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by Catholic kings from 1492.

It reached about 250,000 in the late 1940s, 10 percent of the national population, but many Jews left after the creation of Israel in 1948, many fleeing local hostilities directed at them over the establishment of the Jewish state.

About 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco, and the Casablanca community is one of the country’s most active.

Israel, meanwhile, is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.

read more: