Washington — Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Abroad, Nasser Bourita, said Thursday that the renewal of relations between Morocco and Israel is a factor that will strengthen the dynamics of peace in the Middle East.
"The renewal of diplomatic relations is a response to a double appeal: a call from the Moroccan Jewish community, eager to deepen its relationship with Morocco, but also a call for peace and the development of the original dynamic, conducive to a lasting peace in the Middle East," Bourita pointed out in an interview with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) TV channel, on the sidelines of its annual meeting.
He added that for Morocco, a "pioneer in action for peace in the Middle East since the reign of the late King Hassan II", it is a "normal step, a step of conviction, but also an investment in peace and a way to deepen the strong relationship between Morocco and the Jewish community".
"His Majesty King Mohammed VI said that Morocco's decision in December was not an opportunistic one. It is a natural decision due to its ties with its Jewish community and to the historic involvement of Morocco in peace", the minister stressed.
He added that "the regional dynamic is very important. Regional stability is very important to promote peace between Israel and Palestine. Morocco has played a pioneering role in the peace process in the Middle East and it is today also ready to contribute to it".
"We hope that all efforts will be made from all sides, including on the part of Israel, to promote genuine peace, a peace which will preserve Israel's security and stability of its people, but which allows also Palestinians to enjoy their rights," he said.
Commenting the exceptional relations between Morocco and members of its Jewish community, Bourita said that "to understand the relationship with Israel, you should link it to the relationship with the Jewish community".
"The relationship is very old and the link between Morocco and the Jewish community is very deeply rooted. And I wonder if we can talk about Morocco and the Jewish community as separate entities because they are one community", said the minister, recalling that "the Jewish population has lived in Morocco for centuries. It is part of the Moroccan population. It enriched the Moroccan identity. And that is why our constitution is perhaps the only one in the Arab and Islamic world, which mentions the Jewish component among the important components of Moroccan identity".
It is also a "relationship between the Jewish community and the Kings of Morocco, a very long history dating back to the 15th century when the Jewish community was expelled from Andalusia, to be welcomed in Morocco. The late King Mohammed V rejected the anti-Semitic laws of the Vichy regime and refused to hand over the Moroccan community to the Nazi regime", he pointed out.
Referring to the significant efforts made for the preservation of Moroccan Jewish identity and legacy, Bourita said that "His Majesty King Mohammed VI is working to preserve this legacy. The Moroccan constitution refers to the Jewish tributary. His Majesty also ordered the renovation of nearly 170 cemeteries and holy places in Morocco, and more than 20 synagogues have been restored".
"Today, in our school program, the reference to the Jewish components of Moroccan history is there, which is a unique fact in the Arab and Islamic world. And Morocco is the only Arab and Islamic country where a Jewish community still lives with its synagogues, its court and with all its structures as a normal component of the Moroccan identity and of the Moroccan people", the minister said.
This relationship is very strong, he noted, and the million Moroccan Israelis living in Israel or the hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews living in North and South America, or in Europe, have kept close ties with their country and with their Kings for centuries.
"This is why this relationship is very special, it is unique in the Arab world. And it was safeguarded through the commitments of the Kings of Morocco, but also through the will of the Moroccan people", the minister added.
Asked about the prospects for bilateral relations, Bourita said that after the declaration on the renewal of relations, a trilateral agreement was signed, a few days later, between Morocco, Israel and the United States.
"These documents are legally binding with different components, recognition by the United States of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, Morocco's commitments to develop relations with Israel and Israel's commitment to also engage in deep cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco", he explained.
Since then, "we have taken significant steps to translate this declaration into reality, the liaison offices have been opened in Rabat and Tel Aviv, and they are now working normally with diplomats and participating in events in Israel and also here in Morocco". Second, he said, at least eight ministers have had contact with their Israeli counterparts, which led to the signing of several cooperation agreements in various sectors.
"We have also created eight working groups on diplomacy, security, water, agriculture, tourism, etc., in which we need to deepen cooperation. The flights will be open, the constraint is precisely this COVID context, but we also plan to have direct flights between Morocco and Israel to encourage interpersonal cooperation. We have also set up platforms for businesses. There is a Moroccan Israeli business council that was created and a Moroccan Israeli chamber of commerce was also created a few weeks ago", said Bourita.
"We will go as far as possible in the development of bilateral cooperation for the benefit of both peoples and for the benefit of the region", the minister pointed out.
Commenting the strong partnership between Morocco and the United States, Bourita recalled that "it is a very long-standing relationship. It is a relationship which is even linked to the history of the United States, Morocco being the first country to recognize the United States".
"The Morocco-U.S. agreement is the oldest agreement in force signed by the United States. And today we will celebrate the 200 years of the oldest US diplomatic installation outside the United States, which is located in Tangier", he recalled, noting that this relationship "has adapted to different eras".
"We were allies during the Cold War, we were allies when East and West were divided, we are allies in dealing with emerging challenges, and we are also allies in dealing with threats to our security and the security of our people", he stressed, recalling that "the important thing is to keep the foundations of this relationship, which are values, interests, and common commitments for peace and stability in the world".
Referring to Iran and its destabilizing role in the region, Bourita said that "people know more about Iran's nuclear activities, but Iran is also acting through proxies to destabilize North and West Africa".
"Iran threatens the territorial integrity of Morocco and its security by supporting the Polisario through providing it with arms and training its militia to attack Morocco", he stressed, recalling that Iran is expanding its influence through Hezbollah, "its activities in West Africa are damaging the moderate Islam that Morocco has been promoting for centuries in this region and connecting with some proxies, including militant non-state actors in this region".
Today, "we are always vigilant in the face of the threats that Iran presents to our security and to the security of the Moroccan people", said the minister, stressing that the Sahara issue is "crucial for Morocco. Its territorial integrity is the key to its stability".