JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday welcomed Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel.
Speaking at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Western Wall, Netanyahu said it was a “historic day.”
“This will be a very warm peace. Peace has never – the light of peace on this Hanukkah day has never – shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” he said.
Netanyahu also thanked President Donald Trump “for his extraordinary efforts to expand peace.” Morocco is the fourth country in the region, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan to seek peace with Israel as part of the US-brokered “Abraham Accords.”
Trump announced Thursday that Israel and Morocco would restore full diplomatic relations, including the reopening of liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv, which had been closed in 2002, and the eventual reopening of embassies.
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The palace in Rabat said in a statement that Morocco would also facilitate direct flights between the two countries.
As part of the deal, the US will recognize Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, a former Spanish North African territory at the center of a decades-long international dispute.
"We restore our relationship with Israel in the framework of international law,” Hassana Mae Al Ainine, a Moroccan citizen, told The Associated Press. “It is the right of Israelis to live in their state which is recognized by the world. It doesn't mean that the Palestinians don't have the right to live in their state with the 1967 borders."
Jews have had a long history in Morocco. Before the re-establishment of Israel in 1948, Morocco was home to a large Jewish population whose ancestors fled to North Africa from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition. Many Moroccan Jews immigrated to Israel, but there are still an estimated several thousand left in the African country.
Netanyahu credited Morocco’s rich Jewish history as “the foundation on which we can now build peace.”
The African country has had informal ties with Israel for years. They established low-level ties with the Jewish State during the 1990s, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000. Informal ties between the two countries have continued since then.
Morocco’s decision to make peace with Israel presents another major blow to the Palestinian leadership, which has vehemently condemned the Abraham Accords. Rabat’s palace said Morocco’s king told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday that his support for the Palestinian cause “is constant” and he supports a two-state solution.
Trump’s senior advisor Jared Kushner said the normalization “further enhances Israel’s security while creating opportunities for Morocco and Israel to deepen their economic ties and improve the lives of their people.”
Kushner has spearheaded the peace talks and administration officials have also been trying to bring Saudi Arabia into the accords.
Some have seen a larger peace deal in making in the Mideast region for several years.
In 2018, while addressing The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Dr. Mike Evans, the founder of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, spoke about peace in the Middle East and predicted as many as six Arab countries would make peace with Israel.
Referring to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's legacy, Evans said, "I believe it very well may be peace with five to six Sunni Gulf states. And I'm not saying that in theory. Because I'm talking to these leaders and I'm hearing things that are absolutely astonishing."
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