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December 6, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9664

Lebanese Journalist Defends Morocco's Hosting Of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Purchase Of Israeli Weapons

December 6, 2021
Lebanon, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 9664

The historic visit to Morocco by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in November 2021, and the signing of a security cooperation agreement between the two countries, sparked considerable criticism against Morocco in the Arab world, in particular from Palestinians. A statement issued by Fatah denounced the "normalization" agreements between the "Israeli occupation" and Morocco, and accused Morocco of "stabbing Jerusalem in the back," especially given that this country has headed the Jerusalem Committee of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation since 1975. The statement added that "these moves pave the way to Morocco's relinquishment of its national and religious duty towards Palestine."[1] Hamas too issued a statement "harshly condemning" the agreement, and stating that "Morocco's retreat in the direction of the enemy" only "contaminates the sovereignty" of this Arab country.[2] 

In response to the criticism, Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah published an article in the London-based Emirati daily Al-Arab in which he defended Morocco's hosting of Gantz and signing of the security agreement with Israel. He wrote that the critics, spewing "populist slogans and trapped in the defeats and complexes of the past," do not understand that Morocco is merely looking out for its interests and seeking to benefit its people. He also accused the critics of exploiting the Palestinian cause, noting that even Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords with Israel, which meant mutual recognition between the two sides. Morocco's enemies, he said, are disappointed that President Biden has not revoked his predecessor's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara. But Morocco, he concluded, is entitled to purchase Israeli weapons to defend itself against Algeria, which is seeking to escalate the conflict between them.


Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita (right) and Israeli Foreign Minister Benny Gantz (Source: Elaph.com, November 24, 2021)

The following are translated excerpts from Khairallah's article:[3]

"The populist slogans brandished by Arab or Palestinian elements against the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Benny Gantz to Morocco are amusing, but loathsome. As if Morocco ever kept anyone from liberating Palestine. Morocco is [simply] putting its own interests above anything else. It wants [to promote] the good and wellbeing of the Moroccan people, and it has [indeed] become an advanced country with infrastructures at the level of any respectable European state. Morocco respects itself and does not need lessons from anyone – especially from chronically ill people who are still impressed with defeats, of from the ones who plan these defeats.

"The brandishing of these populist slogans stems first of all from ignorance, which exists at every level, regarding Morocco, [a country] that has a special status but at the same time has different ambitions. [The chief of these ambitions] is to belong to the 21st century and continue to combat poverty and backwardness, so as to strengthen the kingdom in light of the challenges it faces.

"The brandishing of populist slogans against Morocco these days proves that there are two Arab worlds: one that seeks to embrace the future and the technological revolution, and another that is trapped in the past and in every kind of backwardness. Those who brandish populist slogans against Morocco remember nothing, not even the fact that Egypt – the greatest Arab country – signed a peace agreement with Israel in March 1979, and that Jordan signed a similar agreement in October 1994, but only after Yasser Arafat, executive council head of the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords… Abu Amar [i.e., Arafat] did not sign this agreement with ghosts, but with Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's prime minister at the time. The only real significance of the Oslo Accords… was mutual recognition between the Israeli government and the PLO. So what is the problem with Morocco welcoming an Israeli official or obtaining Israeli technology, given that [even] the PLO recognizes Israel, and when every Palestinian official in the West Bank needs Israeli permission to leave it and special permission to return?

"These populists forget that the PLO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at a 1974 Arab summit that was held in in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, not anywhere else.  

"The main thing is that the Moroccan caravan should move on, disregarding what is being published by all those wretched people who trade in the Palestinian cause. These people know nothing of Morocco and of the history of its culture. They do not understand that Morocco makes progress because it refuses to trade in the Palestinian cause. In fact, Morocco promotes this cause in its own special ways, especially since Israel has one million citizens of Moroccan origin who still have ties with their original homeland and a sense of loyalty to it… But the most important thing of all is that a spirit of tolerance prevails in Morocco, and that [its] king, Mohamed VI, is the Commander of the Faithful [i.e., the caliph], responsible for every Moroccan citizen, Muslim or Jewish, and for everyone living on Moroccan soil. 

"One year ago, before Donald Trump left the White House, the U.S. administration recognized the [Western] Sahara as Moroccan territory. At that time Morocco renewed its relations with Israel, which were suspended in late 2000 because of the [Second] Palestinian Intifada. Morocco's enemies were counting on the new American administration to reconsider the Trump's administration's decision. But a meeting between Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed that the U.S. has not changed its position on the Sahara. The chagrin felt by Morocco's enemies explains why these wretched people renewed their campaign against it. The U.S. administration realized that the Moroccan proposal regarding the Sahara was 'the only game in town,' as the Americans say, and this upset [Morocco's enemies]. [Today] there is increasing American and international support for the plan, proposed by Morocco several years ago, of expanded autonomy [for the Western Sahara] under Moroccan sovereignty.

"Defending the Moroccan interest has remained the top priority. This interest requires being prepared for any surprises originating in Algeria or anywhere else, for [Algeria] has long been acting to escalate the situation with its peaceful neighbor [Morocco], which has never attacked anyone. If Israeli weapons, such as drones, serve the Moroccan interest, why is that a problem? The main point is the effectiveness of these weapons in case of an attack on Morocco. Such an attack is not unlikely, considering some of the statements made by the Polisario [i.e., the Sahrawi Nationalist Liberation Movement, claiming independence for the Western Sahara], which is nothing but an Algerian tool. Escalation vis-a-vis Morocco will certainly not help Algeria overcome its crisis, nor will it solve any of the problems of [the Algerian] regime, which has been overtaken by the military establishment, unless this regime shows willingness to first of all make peace with its own people.

"Yes, in our present era there are two Arab worlds: one that looks to the future and sees Morocco as one of its leading symbols, and another which insists on staying trapped in the defeats and complexes of the past. Morocco is not the only [country] looking to the future. Those who brandish populist slogans must understand that the entire region is changing. Who would have thought that Jordan and Israel would reach a UAE-brokered deal to swap solar energy and desalinated water?... Jordan is considered to be one of the world's most water-poor countries. [So] why shouldn't it find a practical way to obtain water and end the suffering of its citizens? Is it [a better] solution to let the Jordanian agriculture die? Or does the solution lie in seeking beneficial ways to give the Jordanians hope of a better future?"

 

[1] The statement also condemned Morocco's hosting of Gantz, "who prayed in a [Moroccan] synagogue for the occupation soldiers, who murder Palestinians every day and desecrate the sanctity of Al-Aqsa." It added that "the establishment of security ties between the Israeli occupation and Morocco is a crushing blow to the Arab peace initiative, which is based on the principle of territory for peace," and wondered "what benefit Morocco derives from security agreements with the Israeli occupation at this time," especially given that "it is presently in a state of conflict with [Israel]." Twitter.com/fatehorg, November 28, 2021.  

[2] Hamas.ps, November 27, 2021.

[3] Al-Arab (London), November 29, 2021.

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