Founder of Orient XXI, Alain Gresh reviews the consequences of the normalization of Morocco-Israel relations, announced at the end of 2020.
At the beginning of last December, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco became the fourth country in six months to normalize its relations with Israel. Un agreement negotiated by the United States, which convinced the kingdom thanks to a strong argument: the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique, founder and director of the online journal Orient XXI, Alain Gresh reconsiders this decision which has turned regional geopolitics upside down.
The Journal of Africa: Morocco is not the first Muslim country to establish links with Israel, but the first in the Maghreb. What is this changing in the region?
Alain Gresh: It is a victory for Israel because Morocco is an important country in the Maghreb, but also very influential in Africa.
The normalization of relations with Israel by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, then by Morocco, breaks the consensus of the Arab world which puts the balance of peace against the recognition of a Palestinian state, which would have East Jerusalem as its capital.
Overall, this normalization movement weakens the Palestinian cause. To believe that normalization will be synonymous with peace is to make fun of the world.
"Western Sahara is an element of national unity"
However, normalization between Morocco and Israel is not really a turning point. Relations have long existed between them, especially at the economic level. Israel and Morocco also cooperated in the years 1970-1980 in the struggle against communism in Africa. I do not think that this normalization can cause a leap forward in economic relations between the two countries.
Was Western Sahara really worth the candle?
Western Sahara is an element of national unity. In exchange for a decision such as normalization with Israel, badly perceived by Moroccan opinion, we give satisfaction to a national demand.
Isn't this a risk for Morocco?
Rather, it is a success for the monarchy. Morocco can afford this kind of decision, Algeria being weakened, absent from the regional scene.
And then, the relations between Morocco and Israel already existed, they were not secret. The two countries cooperate in several areas.
What is the opinion of the Moroccan population regarding this decision?
In the 2000s, it was in Morocco that the most important demonstrations for the Palestinian cause took place. Polls show a rejection of normalization in the Arab world.
But freedom of expression in Morocco is reduced and it is difficult to know the state of opinion.
"Normalization has been announced in countries with authoritarian regimes on which the US can put pressure"
We also note that normalization has been announced in countries with authoritarian regimes on which the United States can put pressure. The case of Sudan is emblematic: the White House weighed the recognition of Israel and the withdrawal of Sudan from its blacklist of countries supporting terrorism, which was negotiated with the Sudanese military to the detriment of these civilians. .
Should we expect such a decision for other neighboring countries, such as Tunisia or Mauritania?
Tunisia is a counterexample. Its president is fiercely opposed to normalization with Israel and the people can speak out to disagree, should it happen.
As for Mauritania, it has had diplomatic relations with Israel in the past and we can imagine new pressures to reestablish it.
Is there a risk of a resurgence of tensions between Algiers and Rabat?
There is a risk, yes, but difficult to define as the Algerian chessboard is so difficult to read with the paralysis of power and the development of Hirak. But this question may, at some point, be raised by Algeria or Morocco.
"Today Israel plays an important role in the security of dictatorial regimes"
For Israel, is Morocco a gateway to Africa, thanks to the influence of Mohammed VI on the continent?
Africa had severed its relations with Israel at the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. But today, Israel plays an important role in the security of dictatorial regimes in particular. The United States knows this well and Morocco's support can be favorable to Israel. There is, however, a counterweight on the continent: South Africa, which militates for the Palestinian cause.
Joe Biden now in the White House, can history be rewritten?
Legally, it seems that he cannot reverse Donald Trump's decision. And that's not his priority anyway.