Kushner Leads Joint U.S.-Israel Morocco Visit After Making Rounds in Jerusalem

Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent
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U.S. Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat board a plane from Israel to Morocco, December 22, 2020
U.S. Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat board a plane from Israel to Morocco, December 22, 2020Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz
Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent

UPDATE: Morocco tells Israel normalization pact is not part of Trump-brokered Abraham Accords

A joint U.S.-Israeli delegation departed for Morocco Tuesday to meet the country's King Mohammed VI and further advance diplomatic ties between Rabat and Jerusalem, following the normalization deal brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this month.  

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The joint delegation will be led by Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, and by Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.  

The American delegation will also include special envoy to the Middle East Avi Berkowitz and Adam Boehler, the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. The Israeli delegation will include Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz and the ministry's legal adviser, Tal Becker.

On Monday, Kushner and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a tree-planting ceremony in Jerusalem ahead of the visit to Morocco.

Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu called the visit "a ground-breaking visit that will expedite the normalization of relations between Israel and Morocco. That’s four peace agreements in a few months. There will be more to come. I believe many more if you pursue these policies.”

In his own remarks at the ceremony, Kushner made mention of the recent normalization agreements: “Bahrain is opening kosher restaurants ... Morocco teaches Jewish history, things that wouldn’t be imaginable otherwise.” Kushner said his visit to Morocco “will bring about a whole new set of opportunities for Northern Africa and the entire Middle East.”

Also on Monday, Kushner participated in a number of ceremonies in Israel organized to mark the end of the term of the Trump administration next month. 

The Israel-Morocco normalization agreement is the fourth that the United States helped broker, following similar agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Facing domestic dissenters at the engagement with Israel, Moroccan ministers have cast it as a formalization of de facto relations under which Rabat had hosted an Israeli "liaison office." Shut in 2000 in solidarity with the Palestinians, that office will now reopen. Israel hopes for that mutual embassies will eventually be established.

"This type of agreement will help have a better interaction between communities and people," Moroccan Tourism Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui told Israeli television channel I24.

In return for Morocco’s agreement to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel, Trump extended U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, a step that has sparked opposition within Trump’s own Republican Party.

Israel and Morocco have had covert relations for decades, and the Moroccan government has openly received tourists from Israel. Following the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, Israel’s ties with Morocco were brought into the open. Then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres attended the opening of an Israeli representative office. But following the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, ties with Morocco receded from public view again. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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