With the same bad diplomatic manners that Rabat used in March of last year so that we Spaniards would find out about the turn that our Government had decided to take, aligning itself clearly in favor of the Moroccanness of Western Sahara, the Moroccan royal palace has now announced that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has addressed a letter to the Alaouite monarch in which he acknowledges that this disputed territory is, to all intents and purposes, Moroccan. In fact, uncertainty about the veracity of the announcement remained for hours, to the extent that Tel Aviv did not openly admit what Rabat took for granted.
With this step, the process initiated by Donald Trump in December 2020 – when he had already been defeated at the polls – is consolidated by aligning himself with Morocco, despising what is repeatedly advocated by the countless UN resolutions on what he describes as a “non-autonomous territory”. ”, that is to say, that it has not yet reached full self-government and is pending self-determination, as stated in the 1991 Peace Plan.RELATED
Since then, and within the framework of the so-called Abraham Agreements, four Arab countries – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan – have normalized their relations with Israel. And if in all cases there has been a clear transactional bias, none has gone as far (so far) as Morocco. In just two years and seven months the gestures and actions have multiplied, topped off this Monday with the appointment of a military attaché in Rabat – something that has not occurred in any of the other three countries – sent to what until now It continues to be a liaison office, waiting for the establishment of the respective embassies and the appointment of their heads to be formalized very soon.
And so, in exchange for just recognizing Israel, Rabat has achieved the support of one more country – and there are already 28 – for its main national aspiration: to impose Moroccan sovereignty in what it calls the “southern provinces”. Along the way, in addition to a significant growth in trade relations and the prospect of establishing a free trade agreement, it has also achieved a notable intensification in defense relations, with the presence of the Israeli military in the African Lion maneuvers -developed last May–, collaboration in the area of intelligence, transfer of material and weapons (which it has already been able to use in its confrontation with the forces of the Polisario Front) and plans to open two drone manufacturing plants of the company Elbit Systems.
It is true that Morocco has not yet achieved everything it wanted from Washington -for example, the participation of the US military in maneuvers carried out in the territory of Western Sahara or the opening of a consulate in Dakhla or El Ayoun-, but it is also true that the Joe Biden’s current administration has not taken any step back from what Trump decided in his day, and everything indicates that Tel Aviv is willing to open a consulate.
These pending fringes are what explain the attitude of Rabat, aware in any case that time is running in its favor in the face of a Saharawi population practically abandoned by everyone, including Spain, while delays continue to be added in the holding of the referendum that was contemplated in the Peace Plan.
An example is the Moroccan reluctance to convene the second summit of the Negev Forum, which brings together Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Israel and Morocco itself. The delay –predictably until September– serves him to try to demonstrate his apparent discomfort with the incessant settlement expansion policy promoted by the extremist government led by Netanyahu, knowing that this attitude will be accepted by Washington, equally upset with the Netanyahu Executive, but knowing that it is a gesture for the gallery, without real consequences of any kind.
What both governments make clear is how little Rabat cares about the fate of the Palestinians – while officially maintaining its commitment to a two-State solution in Palestine and the presidency of the Al Qods Committee – as Tel Aviv cares about the fate of the Saharawis – calculating that his decision will facilitate his relationship with other Arab and African countries. They also share his contempt for international law and for what the UN says.
The downside is that this defiant attitude, which indiscriminately punishes defenseless populations, does not cost them any cost either, to the extent that the rest of the partners, allies and clients of both countries have long ago opted for the most archaic real politicsbetting more and more openly on the one they perceive to be the strongest, even if that is a flagrant contradiction with their proclaimed option for a rules-based international order.
Jesús A. Núñez Villaverde is Co-director of the Institute for Studies on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH)