Israel's Lapid Hails 'A Better Future' in First Morocco Visit Since Normalization

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, at a news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, at a news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco.Credit: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid highlighted in a Wednesday meeting with his Moroccan counterpart in Rabat the desire among the citizens of the Middle East for "a better future," hailing normalization of ties in a first visit by Israel's top diplomat since 2003.

"Something is happening in the region," Lapid said alongside at a press briefing alongside Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. "People and leaders look at the likes of Libya, Syria, and Lebanon, and say to themselves: 'This is not what we want for our children. This is not what we want for ourselves.'"

The Moroccan foreign minister told Lapid that their countries' newly upgraded ties would bring economic benefits and urged him to work towards a two-state solution in Israel's conflict with the Palestinians.

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The centerpiece of Lapid’s trip is the inauguration of Israel’s mission in Rabat on Thursday. His two-day visit is the first such meeting in Morocco since the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The foreign ministers also signed three accords on an air service between the two countries, and cooperation in the fields of culture, sports and youth.

They also signed a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a political consultation mechanism between their countries' foreign ministries. It was not immediately clear what such a memorandum would encompass.

The United States "enthusiastically congratulated" Israel and Morocco over Lapid's visit, calling it "another important step in the strengthening of their relationship."

 "We believe the normalized relations between Israel and Arab neighbors create new opportunities for peace and prosperity to flourish in the region. The Morocco-Israel relationship has already led to real benefits for both countries, including direct commercial flights, economic cooperation and the opening of liaison offices," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.

Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the second intifada erupted in 2000. But the two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco each year.

"For hundreds of thousands of Israelis watching us today, Morocco is part of their identity," Lapid noted. "They will not travel here as tourists. They will travel as family, to explore their heritage."

Many Israeli Jews have lineage that traces back to Morocco, which is still home to a small community of several thousand Jews. "Our ties with Israel are unlike any other ties," said Bourita, adding that Morocco's Jewish heritage was a core component of its identity.

But reiterating Morocco's long-standing support for the Palestinians, Bourita said: "There is a need to restore trust between all parties ... and refrain from fuelling tension in order to pave the way for a political solution based on the two-state solution."

As part of the deal to establish formal ties with Israel, the United States under President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s claim over the long-disputed Western Sahara region, though the Biden administration has said it will review that decision. Morocco’s 1975 annexation of Western Sahara is not recognized by the United Nations.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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