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Rabat’s just reward? US said mulling investing $3 billion after Israel deal

Report says International Development Finance Corporation mulling huge expenditure in country’s banks and hotels, with US official denying it’s linked to normalization pact

In this photo provided by the Moroccan News Agency (MAP), Moroccan King Mohammed VI, center, chats with Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump, left, as Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, right looks on before an Iftar meal, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset, at the King Royal residence in Sale, Morocco, May 28, 2019. (Moroccan Royal Palace, via AP)
In this photo provided by the Moroccan News Agency (MAP), Moroccan King Mohammed VI, center, chats with Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to President Donald Trump, left, as Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, right looks on before an Iftar meal, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset, at the King Royal residence in Sale, Morocco, May 28, 2019. (Moroccan Royal Palace, via AP)

The United States is considering investing up to $3 billion in Moroccan institutions, The New York Times reported Thursday, a day after Rabat agreed to normalize its ties with Israel.

Morocco is seen to have negotiated a major diplomatic win out of the US as part of the normalization deal, convincing Washington to recognize Rabat’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.

The Times reported that Morocco could also have had a powerful financial incentive to sign the deal. Citing a senior Trump administration official and two Moroccan officials, the report said that the International Development Finance Corporation, a US government body formed last year by President Donald Trump, was considering investments worth up to $3 billion earmarked for Moroccan banks and hotels, as well as for a renewable energy company belonging to King Mohammed VI of Morocco himself.

The American official, however, denied that was linked to the Israel normalization deal.

The report said the deal was reached with the help of Moroccan Jewish investor Yariv Elbaz, who has businesses in Israel and acted as a “go-between.”

The New York Times said the king was hesitant during 2017 talks of normalization, fearing reaction from the Arab world. It said Elbaz had dangled the possibility of the $3 billion in investments, though there was no explicit mention of the sum being dependent on normalization.

Another possible reward for establishing ties with Israel was reported Thursday by the Reuters news agency, which said the US was on the verge of reaching an agreement with Morocco to sell the North African kingdom four advanced aerial drones.

Three sources with knowledge of the drone deal negotiations did not indicate whether the sale was directly tied to the normalization announcement.

The US State Department has authorized the sale of the MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones, but it was unclear whether Washington would allow the UAVs to be exported with weapons attached, the report said.

Neither the State Department nor Morocco’s embassy in Washington immediately responded to a request for comment.

The reports are in line with the Trump administration’s apparent transactional approach to regional peacemaking. The timing of the Morocco news was conspicuously similar to that of the $23 billion US arms sale to the United Arab Emirates. Sudan, too, said it agreed to ties with Israel in exchange for removal from the US terror blacklist, badly needed aid and access to global financial institutions.

Israel and the UAE signed a US-brokered normalization deal in September. Within days, reports began sprouting of advanced negotiations toward the purchase of F-35 advanced fighter jets and Reaper drones, and less than two months later, the Trump administration formally notified Congress of its planned weapons sale to Abu Dhabi.

On the record, the three countries have insisted that the arms deal was not part of negotiations that brought about the so-called Abraham Accords.

But Trump officials have acknowledged that the agreement put the UAE in a better position to receive such advanced weaponry, and a source with direct knowledge of the talks told The Times of Israel that both the US and Israel knew that the arms deal was “very much part of the deal.”

Sudan also confirmed in October the linkage between the agreement to normalize and the carrots provided by the US, after initially denying it.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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