Attending a tree-planting ceremony on Monday in Jerusalem with Jared Kushner, senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, ahead of a joint U.S.-Israeli delegation visit to Morocco, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a ground-breaking visit that will expedite the normalization of relations between Israel and Morocco.”
Trump announced the Israel-Morocco normalization agreement earlier this month. It was the fourth that the United States helped broker, following similar agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
The joint delegation is due to leave for Morocco on Tuesday, where they will meet with the Moroccan monarch. In addition to Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, the delegation will be led by Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of Israel’s National Security Council. The American participants arrived in Israel on Monday and will fly to the Moroccan capital, Rabat, on an El Al Israel Airlines flight. This will be the first commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat.
On Monday in Israel, Kushner participated in a number of ceremonies organized to mark the end of the term of the Trump administration next month. At a tree-planting ceremony in Jerusalem, a Kushner peace garden was dedicated in the Jerusalem Forest and Kushner courtyard was dedicated at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
“In recent months, four Arab states have chosen life and peace over hostility and conflict, and more Arab states will follow suit,” Netanyahu at the tree-planting ceremony. 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 upcoming visit to Morocco “will bring about a whole new set of opportunities for Northern Africa and the entire Middle East.”
The joint delegation to Morocco will work to advance Israel’s diplomatic ties with Morocco, which were formalized about two weeks ago. In return for Morocco’s agreement to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel, President 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.
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At the tree-planting ceremony, Netanyahu remarked, “This is 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.”
With regard to the direct air connections with Morocco, Netanyahu said, “Yes, Israelis have been there before, but with direct flights, it is going to be a whole different thing.” The Israeli premier noted that tens of thousands of Israelis have now visited the UAE following Israel’s normalization agreement with the Gulf state. “This peace between Jews and Arabs outside Israel is creating a new positive dynamic between Jews and Arabs in Israel. The old enmities are being put aside,” he added.
The American delegation to Morocco will include U.S. 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 ministry legal adviser Tal Becker.
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.