Israel and Morocco agree to full diplomatic normalization
CASABLANCA, Morocco — Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a press conference on Thursday that Israel and Morocco will move toward full diplomatic normalization by upgrading their diplomatic liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat to full embassies within two months.
The big picture: Morocco and Israel reestablished diplomatic relations last December as part of a three-way deal with the U.S., in which the Trump administration reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.
- The Moroccans stopped short of fully normalizing diplomatic relations with Israel at that time, preferring to open diplomatic liaison offices in lieu of embassies and potentially retain bargaining chips should the next administration consider rolling back the Western Sahara decision.
Behind the scenes: Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita in April that the U.S. was not rolling back Trump's move, as I reported at the time.
- That gave a sense of stability to the deal and convinced Morocco to conclude the normalization process. The announcement was negotiated between the Moroccans and Israelis in the weeks leading up to Lapid's visit.
- Meanwhile, direct flights have started between Tel Aviv and Casablanca, Moroccan troops participated in an exercise in Israel for the first time in two decades, and the countries announced a cooperation agreement on cyber defense.
Driving the news: Lapid's visit was the first by an Israeli foreign minister to Morocco since 2003.
- He said in a press conference at its conclusion that Bourita would be traveling to Israel on the first direct Air Morocco flight, planned for October.
- During this visit, Bourita is expected to inaugurate the Moroccan Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Worth noting: Lapid also said he'd be traveling to Bahrain in September to inaugurate the Israeli Embassy there. That will be the first official visit by an Israeli foreign minister to the Gulf kingdom.