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Foreign ministers Lapid (L) and Bourita in Rabat. Photo: Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

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.

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2021 - World

Israel to approve new construction in West Bank settlements

Bennett (L) and Biden discussed the settlements issue. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Israel will approve the construction of 4,400 new homes in the West Bank next week: 3,10o in the Jewish settlements and 1,300 in Palestinian villages.

Why it matters: This will be the first time Israel has approved new settlement building since President Biden assumed office, and it's the first time since 2007 that it approves a significant number of new homes for Palestinians in "Area C" of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel.

By the numbers: Leaving House

Expand chart
Data: House Press Gallery; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) is the latest House lawmaker to announce he won't seek re-election next year, bringing the total number of Democratic retirements to 13, compared to nine Republicans.

Why it matters: The increasing number of Democratic retirements — put against the backdrop of President Biden's sagging approval ratings and uncertainty about redistricting — is adding to concerns the party may not be able to keep its slim majority in the House.

Ohio sues Biden admin over reversal of Trump-era abortion referral ban

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration Monday over a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals that President Biden overturned earlier this month.

The big picture: The lawsuit aims to reinstate two measures included in the 2019 legislation that required federally funded family planning clinics to be "financially independent of abortion clinics," and refrain from referring patients for abortions.

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