1 September 2023

Israel and Morocco are striding towards a peaceful future

By Mike Freer MP

Peace in the Middle East, and throughout the Arab World, has always been hard-won. We’ve had to measure its progress in small, deliberate steps – whether that’s from letters to handshakes, missions to embassies or treaties to trade deals.

And stability in the Middle East and the wider region is beneficial to the UK as we forge new trade deals and associations post Brexit. 

Since the Abraham Accords in 2020, Israel and Morocco have been solidifying their diplomatic ties in recognition of their shared interests and responsibilities to global and regional security.

Last month the two countries made a historic leap forward – a leap that should give the UK and the international community renewed confidence in the stability of the Arab World and the Middle East. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara and indicated that Israel would consider opening a consulate in one of the region’s key cities, Dakhla. At the invitation of King Mohammed VI, Netanyahu also agreed to conduct a state visit to Morocco soon – his first to any of the Arab nations involved in the Abraham Accords three years ago.  

In the space of just a week, these are remarkable developments. This October, it will be just 50 years since the two countries were on either side of the Yom Kippur War – and they are now moving towards an alliance that could be critical to the stability of the entire Middle East.

The diplomatic progress between the two nations will be especially important to Morocco’s Jewish population – the largest of any Arab nation at around 2,000 people, and an ancient and officially recognised element of the nation’s ethnic and religious identity.

But on a larger scale, improved relations are a highly positive sign for Israel’s relations with the Arab world, which are indispensable to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In addition to Morocco, nations including the UAE, Sudan, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan have all sought to normalise or strengthen their diplomatic relations with Israel in the past few years, greatly enhancing the prospect of a sustainable peace throughout the Middle East. 

Just as importantly, Israel’s latest move is also a vital development for the Western Sahara, a region mostly under Moroccan administrative control that has spent decades in limbo after a history of colonial rule, Cold War geopolitics and outbursts of conflict. 

The United States became the first nation to officially recognise Morocco’s claim to the territory in 2020, and 28 states have since opened consulates in Dakhla in the south or Laayoune in the north. By following suit, Israel has shown a willingness to invest in the region’s future, the security of its population and its economic potential.

Morocco has done much the same, supporting the Western Sahara’s economic development through billion-dollar infrastructure projects, new wind and solar farms generating renewable energy and a prospective new stadium in Dakhla to support Morocco’s joint 2030 World Cup bid with Spain and Portugal. 

James Cleverly, our Foreign Secretary, has rightly declared peace and stability in the Middle East to be priority.

Taken together, these commitments to peace and prosperity throughout the Middle East and Arab World should be a source of real hope for the region’s future stability. We’re moving ahead – and coming ever closer to making that future a reality.

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Mike Freer is MP for Finchley and Golders Green.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.