Morocco Delaying Tel Aviv Embassy Over Demands of Backing Western Sahara Claim
According to a report on Wednesday, Israel is facing pressure from Moroccan officials to recognize the country’s control of the disputed Western Sahara region.
They have decided to connect the territory to the establishment of the country’s embassy in Israel. Axios, the news outlet in the US, cited four former and current Israeli officials in the report.
It said that the issue had been brought up in recent meetings between Moroccan and Israeli officials. Liaison offices of Morocco are already operating in Israel and it has also committed to setting up an embassy in Tel Aviv.
However, each time the issue is brought up by Israeli officials, their Moroccan counterparts start demanding that Israel recognize its sovereignty over the Western Sahara formally.
Public statements from some Israeli politicians have been in favor of the claims that Morocco has made in regard to Western Sahara.
But, the Foreign Ministry of Israel has not recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory. Back in June, Ayelet Shaked, the then-interior minister, had visited Morocco.
That was the first time that she had publicly expressed support of Israel for Moroccan sovereignty over the region in Western Sahara.
Nonetheless, Yair Lapid, who had been the Foreign Minister of Israel at that time, had opted to remain ambiguous.
He had referred to the autonomy plan that Morocco had developed for the Western Sahara region as a positive move and had asserted that attempts of weakening the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Morocco would be countered.
But, he had not taken a clear stance on the matter. In July, Gideon Sa’ar, the former justice minister, had also visited Morocco and had recognized the sovereignty of Morocco in the area.
The Foreign Ministry had opted to distance itself from his comments.
Morocco and Israel’s relations had taken a downturn in 2000, after the second Palestinian intifada had broken out.
It wasn’t until two decades later that they had decided to establish relations once more after the Trump administration stepped in and made a deal.
The terms of the agreement dictated that they would recognize the sovereignty of Rabat over the disputed Western Sahara region, which had been a former Spanish colony.
Spain had withdrawn from the region in 1975, which had become renowned for its offshore fisheries and rich phosphate resources, after which Morocco had staked its claim.
However, the demand for independence had come after the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, had taken up arms.
In 1976, it had declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and had engaged in a war with Morocco for 16 years.
A proposal had been put forward to the UN by Morocco in 2006 that would give autonomy to the Western Sahara region, while keeping it a part of the kingdom.
The Moroccan proposal had been endorsed by the Spanish prime minister for being a realistic and credible option to resolve the dispute.
But, Israel is not ceding to Rabat’s demands due to which Morocco is dragging its feet about setting up an embassy in Tel Aviv.