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Moroccan diplomats in Israel to prepare for opening of liaison office

Officials also speak of trade deals with potential to exceed $1 billion

Moroccan and Israeli officials sign memorandums of understanding during a visit by Israeli envoys to Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 22, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Shereen Talaat)

A diplomatic delegation from Morocco arrived in Israel this week to prepare the reopening of its liaison office in Tel Aviv and to advance the normalization agreement between the two countries announced earlier this month by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The move comes a week after Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita declared that his country aims to reopen its diplomatic office in Israel, following the recent normalization agreement between the two countries.

An unnamed Israeli official told The Times of Israel that a high-level Moroccan diplomatic delegation is expected to visit Israel in January for the reopening of the country’s diplomatic office. Morocco closed its Israel office when the second intifada broke out in 2000, as a sign of official solidarity with the Palestinians. Despite closing its office, the Moroccan government never sold its property in Tel Aviv, and the office will therefore be able to reopen quickly. 

Likewise, Jerusalem will be reopening its diplomatic office in Rabat. The Israeli government closed its Morocco office two decades ago in response to Morocco’s closure of its Israel office. However, just like the Moroccan government, the State of Israel maintained the ownership of the property. 

While liaison offices are lower level diplomatic missions, Morocco and Israel plan to upgrade them to fully-fledged embassies in the future. 

On Monday, Israeli Economy Minister Amir Peretz discussed economic cooperation with Moroccan Minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies Moulay Hafid Elalamy. Peretz was born in the Moroccan city Boujad during the French protectorate and moved to Israel with his family in 1956. Peretz and Elalamy agreed to establish a team to facilitate bilateral cooperation. 

Bilateral trade between Morocco and Israel is currently modest but the potential is promising, especially within "agritech" and health care sectors, according to Adiv Baruch, chairman of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute. 

“I think that the potential will reach $100 million in trade between the two countries in the very short-term. The target is to exceed over $1 billion in trade over the next three years,” Baruch told The Media Line. 

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for the first time on the phone to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI since the historic normalization agreement between the two countries. During the conversation, Netanyahu invited the Moroccan monarch to visit Israel and thanked Morocco’s king for hosting the visit by the U.S.-Israeli delegation to Morocco recently, led by senior presidential White House advisor Jared Kushner and Israel’s national security advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat. 

During that visit, Moroccan and Israeli officials signed a declaration to formalize the establishment of full diplomatic relations and bilateral cooperation.

Apart from reopening their respective diplomatic missions, direct flights between Israel and Morocco have also been scheduled to operate in the near future. Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc will reportedly launch direct flights between Casablanca and Tel Aviv in January with plans to offer four flights a week.

With almost 1 million Israeli Jews with Moroccan roots, the North African country is hoping to dramatically increase the number of Israeli tourists. Even prior to the normalization agreement and with no direct flights, some 50.000 Israelis reportedly visited Morocco annually.

The Israeli airline companies El Al, Arkia and Israir also plan to operate daily flights between Israel and Morocco in the near future. Israir CEO Uri Sirkis estimates that as many as 150.000 Israelis will visit Morocco in 2021. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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