Photo provided by Alexandra Guy of a synagogue in T & # 225; nger. . / Alexandra Guy / Archive
Rabat / Nouakchott, Sep 16 . .- Morocco and Mauritania, frequently cited as two of the Arab countries that could normalize their relations with Israel following in the wake of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, do not give the slightest example at the moment of interest for joining the so-called « Abrahamic Accords ».
Just yesterday, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, said that when it comes to the recognition of Israel, they had a lot of progress in the Arab region with « about five more countries » that he did not mention – and all eyes turned to Oman, Morocco and Mauritania.
However, neither of the two Maghreb countries has manifested, either openly or secretly, a willingness to approach Israel, despite the fact that both had relations with the Hebrew state in the past, which they broke off under different circumstances.
MOROCCO, THE WEIGHT OF JUDAISM
In Morocco, the weight of Judaism in national identity is so clear -in music, gastronomy and urban heritage- that the country’s last Constitution of 2011 consecrated « the Hebrew element » along with the African, Andalusian and Mediterranean as parts indivisible of the Moroccan nation.
Along with Tunisia, Morocco is the only Arab country that has a Jewish minority among its population that still has open synagogues, as well as schools and even a rabbinical court, although the numerical weight of this Jewish minority continues to diminish and today barely reaches the 2,000 people, most of them in Casablanca.
However, and as Serge Berdugo, former Minister of Tourism with King Hasan II and eternal leader of the community, likes to repeat, Moroccan Judaism should not be measured by its residents, but by the number of Moroccan Jews in the world that they maintain and preserve. their ties to their country of origin and their Maghreb identity (in Israel alone it is estimated that they exceed one million people).
Every year, tens of thousands of Jewish tourists come to Morocco to celebrate pilgrimages to the tombs of rabbis or festivals such as the « mimuna », specific to Moroccan Jews; According to Israeli government estimates, from Israel there are about 50,000 people who visit Morocco annually.
Israeli sources contacted by Efe insist on the « good reception » that these tourists receive, even though they do not hide their nationality at any time, and consider it « a thermometer that the situation is ripe for normalization at the political level. »
THE PRECEDENT OF THE LIAISON OFFICE
Between 1994 and 2000 an Israeli « liaison office » was opened in Rabat, and at the same time another Moroccan office in Jerusalem, which were not called « embassies » because of Hasan II’s desire to go gradually and not burn stages in normalization.
Hasan II, who always had great foreign ambition – unlike his son, who was more focused on domestic politics – never hid his desire to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians, sometimes discreetly and sometimes openly, as when he invited Shimon Peres to his Ifrane Palace in 1986.
The opening of that office ended abruptly in 2000, in protest by Morocco of the Israeli repression of the Palestinian « second intifada », when Mohammed VI had been on the Alawite throne for just a year.
Mohamed VI never again became involved diplomatically in the Palestinian problem nor did he strengthen ties with Israel, but he always kept his ties with Moroccan Judaism around the world, which was always seen as an anchor that could serve him at any time to resume that broken relationship with the Hebrew state.
SECURITY, TOURISM AND BUSINESS
Tourists from Israel visit synagogues, cemeteries and the « mellahs » or Jewish quarters existing in almost all the cities of Morocco – although today empty of their original inhabitants – with all normality although with special protection by the police.
But along with this « visible » tourism there are much more discreet visits that have to do with the field of security: as Efe has learned from sources in the sector, leading Israeli companies in this field advise different security forces in Morocco, without doing never publicity of their working hours.
Last Saturday, an Israeli television channel announced that Morocco was going to authorize direct flights with Israel – which have never existed – as a step towards normalization with the Hebrew state, but Moroccan diplomatic sources quickly came out to deny the information and dismiss it as » poisoning ».
And while current generations are not as fiercely anti-Israel as previous ones, that diplomatic reaction made one thing clear: the time is not yet ripe for normalization.
MAURITANIA, TEN YEARS OF RELATIONSHIPS AND A BULLDOZER
Mauritania became the third Arab state -after Egypt and Jordan- to have full relations with Israel: it was President Muauiya uld Taya who in 1999 exchanged embassies with the Hebrew state, and the relations lasted for ten years despite no support from the public opinion.
In January 2009, then-President Mohamed uld Abdel Aziz, who had just staged a coup a few months earlier and was seeking internal legitimacy and sympathy in the Arab world, announced that he was closing the Israeli embassy using the offensive as a pretext. Israeli over Gaza.
Broken relations, Abdel Aziz even sent a bulldozer in broad daylight to bulldoze the walls of what had been the Israeli representation, thus wanting to signify his rejection of the Hebrew state.
Now that the Aziz era has just ended and he has been replaced by Mohamed uld Ghazouani, there are those who believe that the latter could resume relations with Israel, especially because of the good relations and the economic support that Nouakchott receives from the Emirates.
However, internal political factors play here: since his election in June 2019, Ghazouani has multiplied gestures towards the Islamists, the main opposition party and radically opposed to Israel.
The time to approach Tel Aviv does not seem right, and observers in Nouakchott are convinced that this was the message that Ghazouani conveyed to the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in their last telephone conversation on August 18.