Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that Morocco and Israel have agreed to the normalisation of diplomatic relations, the fourth Arab state to do so in recent months.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” Trump tweeted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I’ve always believed that this historic day would come. I’ve always worked for it,” at a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony with U.S. ambassador to Israel Davod Friedman, in a video released on Twitter.
Netanyahu thanked Trump for his “extraordinary efforts to bring peace to Israel and the peoples of the Middle East.”
He said the state of Israel would be forever in Trump’s debt.
He also thanked the king of Morocco for taking the historic decision, and said that “the people of Morocco and the Jewish people have always had a warm relationship.”
Netanyahu called for rapid efforts to establish full diplomatic efforts as soon as possible, including liaison with direct flights.
“The light of peace has never shone brighter than on this Hanukka day,” he said.
Israel also recently inked deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Sudan – the first recognition of the Jewish state by Arab nations in a quarter of a century.
The White House said Trump on Thursday spoke to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, who “agreed to resume diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel and expand economic and cultural cooperation to advance regional stability.”
The agreement marks the latest victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sought to undo an Arab boycott established since Israel’s founding in 1948.
Most Arab countries have vowed to never recognise Israel until a peace deal is struck with the Palestinians.
However, the recent normalisation agreements, which began with the UAE in the summer, have shifted dynamics in the region.
King Mohammed VI said that Morocco was in support of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a royal court statement said on Thursday after Trump’s announcement.
The king said he had briefed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on his phone call with Trump, and “affirmed his unchanged position in support of the Palestinian issue.”
He stressed that negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides are the only way to reach a “lasting, comprehensive and final solution to the conflict.”
The king “has special relations with the Jewish community of Moroccan descent, including hundreds of thousands of Moroccan Jews in Israel,” the statement added.
During his call with Morocco’s king, Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over North Africa’s disputed Western Sahara territory, according to the White House read-out.
“Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” Trump said in another tweet.
Morocco took over Western Sahara in in 1975 after Spain withdrew from the region and claims the phosphate-rich area as part of its territory.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement seeks the region’s independence.