The Myth of Peace in the Middle East: Deconstructing the Naturalization Narrative

April 16, 2021Articles,

American-Israeli delegation visit to Morocco in December 2020. (Photo: US Embassy Jerusalem, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Mohamed El Metmari

This critical essay deconstructs the political narrative surrounding the naturalization agreements that have occurred between some Arab countries and Israel formally known as the Abrahamic Accords or Jared Kushner’s plan for peace in the Middle East. It offers unique perspectives and analysis of these accords and their true geopolitical intentions. Primarily, it argues how the peace promised by these newly established ties remains just a myth as it explores the true objectives behind them. Interestingly enough, it also highlights the true goals behind the U.S’ mediations in these Accords.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the hottest yet unresolved political issues of today. Whereas this conflict is not heading towards any resolutions soon, the recent naturalization agreements that have occurred between some Arab regimes and the apartheid state of Israel may mark a future shift in Middle East’s political scene.

Earlier to these agreements, boycotting Israel was these Arab nations’ approach to show support for Palestinians and their claims. Before 2020, only two bordering countries have had diplomatic ties with Israel; that is, Egypt and Jordan. This number has risen to six as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have set full diplomatic and economic relations with Israel as part of Jared Kushner’s plan for peace in the Middle East known formally as the Abrahamic Accords.

Celebrating the first occurrence of the Abrahamic Accords, Trump hosted a signing ceremony in the White House and had the following rash statement to announce: “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.” By this politically immature statement, Trump seemed as if he had finally found a solution to the conflict in the region.

As for peace in the region is concerned, Jared Kushner’s peace plans do not make any sense. Apart from Sudan, none of the countries involved with these accords are in conflict with Israel. On the opposite, Morocco and so the Gulf States have retained very healthy diplomatic relations with Israel, even if they were undeclared publicly. For instance, Morocco has had a fair share of intelligence-sharing with Israel since the mid-sixties. On top of that, the two countries had liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat from Sept. 1, 1994, to Oct. 23, 2000. Not to mention Morocco’s contribution in populating Israel by handing over its Jewish population to the newly established Jewish state during the reign of the Moroccan king Hassan II.

Granted, Israel supports the totalitarian regimes of the region mainly because these totalitarianisms do not demand accountability for its human rights and international law violations. Hence, most Arab dictatorships have been dealing with Israel on political and security levels; especially after the outbreak of the Arab spring where these regimes had to obtain the latest spying and security tech to topple every dissident in their population who desires regime change. Whereas the case of the Washington Post’s correspondent Jamal Khashoggi remains the most covered case, Amnesty International has reported that Moroccan journalist Omar Radi’s phone has also been infected with the Israeli Pegasus spyware.

The Myth of Peace: Deception, Expansion and Dispossession.

Each time an Arab country initiates full diplomatic relations with Israel, its local propaganda machine makes it look as a major historical event that has occurred in the country. Some media outlets have gone far with this. For example, they take the religious tolerance preached in the Muslim faith as a pretext for setting these normalization agreements with this ‘Jewish’ nation. Other media platforms, however, have beautified the image of Israel’s apartheid regime via elaborate historical descriptions of Jewish culture and heritage. This is not wrong at all, but what is wrong is to evoke this history only at this particular event ignoring Israel’s present violations of International Law and Human rights and most of all occupation of Palestinian lands. This is why it is easy to deconstruct the naturalization narrative and prove that it is just a myth.

First of all, the context of these agreements was preceded and controlled by the 2020 US elections. Trump’s administration had tried to convince the American public that it will be the first administration that ends the conflict in the Middle East and thus planning on gaining a potential leverage in the election race. But despite the occurrence of the Abrahamic Accords last year and even Trump’s administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017, it still was not enough to win Trump the approval of the devastated American public. This is mainly because Americans wanted Trump out of the White House at any cost; even if it meant choosing the lesser evil of the two candidates in the elections.

Meanwhile, these events come as a perfect opportunity to boost the reputation of the Likud party and more specifically the reputation of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose image has been stained by his corruption and monopoly of the Israeli political scene. Unlike Trump, the chances of him getting replaced in the upcoming Israeli elections are relatively low because of his firm grip on power and the lack of his equal in the Israeli political arena. Furthermore, with the massive press coverage that comes with such events, Netanyahu, similarly to Trump, wanted the spotlights on him to distract the public from his administration’s terrible handling of Covid-19 and thus gaining significant leverage in the elections.

Second, the biggest gain for Israel from these new ties with the Arab States and Morocco is that it reinforces its political influence in the Middle East. Not only this, but unlocking Israel’s geo-political isolation in the region as well. And since this newly granted influence to Israel is an approved one, it gives it freedom to expand and occupy more without any opposition. Of course, if Israel is gaining a legitimate influence in the region, this means that Palestine’s position will exacerbate. And thus the Palestinian cause will no longer have the leverage it has on the Middle Eastern political scene.

Furthermore, Israel’s decision to create ties with the Gulf countries in specific is not arbitrary. This move was motivated by economic reasons. As it is known, the Khaleeji people are the biggest consumers in the region. Hence the khaleeji market becomes a perfect destination for Israeli goods. Israeli products, foods in specific, can even replace other products coming from other countries because of the close distance and the low shipping costs. Additionally, Sudan may not offer much as markets are concerned, but it is definitely a great source of agricultural imports for Israel. Being the mediator between Israel and its “new” allies, the US benefits from these agreements as well since it is Israel’s biggest ally. After all, any ongoing political conflict between Israel and any of the Middle Eastern countries is primarily endangering US’ political and economic interests in the region. In other words, the mediation of the US in these so-called Peace agreements is not out of a sort of altruism because the US is only after its share of the pie.

Third, to say that these newly established ties will bring “peace” to the region is ludicrous and rash but not totally wrong. But for whom this peace is served; for Palestine, for the Arab States, or for Israel? To give a rather simple and short answer, it is apt to say it remains just a myth for the Palestinians in specific, but it means more security and power for the Israeli side in particular. To put it differently, with Israel having full diplomatic ties with these Arab countries and Morocco, it becomes easy for it to carry its annexation plans and dispossession of Palestinian lands without being held accountable. And the Palestinians are likely to be displaced gradually and implicitly to one of these countries. Apparently, Morocco and the rich Gulf states are the biggest fish that Israel could ever come to terms with. Since they provide financial comfort and political stability, some Palestinians may choose these destinations over their currently Israeli-occupied and war-inflected homes.

However, it is worth mentioning that the Emiratis as well as the Saudis despise the Palestinians. Hence, the Palestinians will never accept the reality of being displaced to one of these two countries. Meanwhile, this does not apply to either Kuwait or Oman in which do not have a strong political influence in the region. Apart from Morocco, they maybe the desired destination Israel is looking for to displace the Palestinians to after annexing their lands. Whether the two countries agree to normalize relations with Israel in the future or not, it does not really matter as long they are subservient to UAE and Saudi Arabia. Apparently, the Palestinians are likely to resist as they usually do.

Concurrently, Israel is likely to pressure them to accept this bitter reality as it has been doing for the last decades. Hence, Israel will possibly seek not only to increase its siege and pressure on the borders and checkpoints, but it may also instigate a war with Hamas as a pretext for a military escalation. Hamas, on the other hand, will be, as always, scapegoated for the whole thing especially that it is classified as a terrorist organization. Therefore, the peace that Israel is seeking is a peace with the Palestinians out of Palestine.

However, Israel is not the only benefactor from these agreements. Clearly, the Gulf States have paid for US military protection by signing these accords. But UAE in specific have had further arms deals and gained even more political protection against the Iranian influence in the Arab peninsula. Nonetheless, when a country signs a peace deal, it does not instantly demand acquirement of advanced F-35 stealth Jet, which is what this Gulf State did, because the two are paradoxical. Therefore, in opposition to the classic definitions of peace treaties, the brokered peace from these agreements is a purchased one like many peace agreements that have been signed before it in the region. After all, Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel so it is de-listed from the state-sponsors of terror, the Gulf States signed them as a payment for US military protection and Morocco got support for its sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Therefore, as all the purchased peace agreements the Middle East has witnessed over modern history- whether it is peace for land, peace in exchange of monopoly or what have you- this one is also doomed to be broken by conflict since it is not based on a balanced compromise where two equal parties meet in the middle. Rather, it is a political move towards accumulation of power where the main side of this conflict, meaning the Palestinians, is not even included in these agreements.

The US, Morocco, and Israel: A Geopolitical Chess Game over Africa

The fact that Israel has pursued diplomatic relations with Morocco- a country so far away from the Middle East’s political discourse- is by no means for peace as it is claimed by any of the Accords’ orchestrators. The moment it was announced that Morocco was to resume relations with Israel, Moroccan propaganda machines overshadowed the controversies that come with this event by preaching to the public about the Moroccan Jewish heritage and the coexistence of the Abrahamic religions in this homogeneous sphere. This normalization was depicted as a win-win situation for Morocco especially that Trump has rewarded Morocco’s approval of its resumption of relations with the apartheid regime by signing a presidential proclamation that recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The celebrations following this recognition covered up totally for the naturalization. This proclamation has even become an independent narrative of its own. The official discourse in Moroccan media has asserted that this recognition is the fruit of long-lasting diplomatic ties between Morocco and the US and not as a part of the Abrahamic Accords. Moreover, many factors influence politics, but altruism is not one of them. Taking the fact that Morocco was the first country to recognize the independence of the US in 1777, and the two countries long diplomatic relations, it stands as a surprise that it took so much time for the US to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara or at least support its claim diplomatically.

Meanwhile, political terminology is important here because Moroccan media had it intentionally mixed up to alleviate the Moroccan public’s rage. Trump’s presidential proclamation does not recognize the Western Sahara region as a Moroccan entity as they have claimed, but it only recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over it. These are two different things, because Morocco has already been practicing sovereignty over the region although with some difficulties mainly caused by intense altercations with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. The only thing that Morocco has needed is legitimacy and this proclamation happens to be it. Obviously, this is a simple treat from the US for Morocco’s acceptance of the resumption of relations with Israel.

Nevertheless, the majority of the Moroccan public welcomed Trump’s move, but they abhorred Morocco’s establishment of ties with Israel. Nasser Bourita, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, has refused to call this an act of “naturalization” of relations. For him, normalization is a Middle Eastern term that does not apply to Morocco which is not a neighboring country to Israel. Indeed, Morocco’s North African location and its large indigenous Amazigh population make it hard to proclaim the country as purely Arab.

Bourita has preferred using the term “resumption” of relations instead. As mentioned earlier, Morocco and Israel had Liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat before Morocco had to close their office in response to Israeli repression of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000. Not to mention, there is a number of almost 800.000 Jews of Moroccan decent living in Israel right now.

Obviously, Israel remains the biggest benefactor from these naturalization agreements. However, the US did not take part in them without purpose. The existence of Israel in the Middle East protects American interests in the region. That is why Zionist lobbies in the US always do their best to empower this regime. And this is what AIPAC is doing and what Christians United for Israel and other Zionist lobbies are doing. As a result, this support for the apartheid regime enables the US to retain its firm grip on Middle East’s political and economic affairs. These are all facts now. But the case of Morocco is still a uniquely dubious one. Pressing Morocco – a country so far away from The Middle East’s frenzy and even terminology to sign these deals seems confusing to say the least; especially that Morocco is not a rich country like the Gulf States.

However, ever since Morocco’s rejoining the African Union in 2017, many countries and the US particularly have started to look for ways to intensify their relations with this African country more than before. To illustrate, Morocco’s main weapon supplies come from the US. Granted, the influence of the US embassy in Rabat has surpassed diplomatic lines to influencing Moroccan cultural context and even influencing Moroccan academia via its grants and many programs and English learning courses. This soft pressure changes the structure of Moroccan society with time. As of now, although French is the official second language in Morocco, the majority of Moroccan youth, many of whom have benefited from US grants and programs, speak English. This is not bad at all, but again, politics is the game of interests and not altruisms. Implemented in these courses and grants are soft ideologies that create sympathy and acceptance of US values and democracy in the Moroccan community. In the long run, acceptance of the US image rises even if its intentions in the region are not necessarily benevolent.

To connect this to the question at hand, Morocco remains the US’ key holder to the African Union and African countries. This strategic move to invest in Morocco politically and economically and then support its sovereignty over its full territorial land comes as the price for infiltrating a fertile network of rising African economies. Hence, these countries become perfect investment destinations for the US. And although China is the biggest player in Africa as economy is involved, not counting the previous colonial powers of Africa, the US is doing the best it can to take this role in the near future. After its degrading failure to do so under pretexts of humanitarian aid and war on terror, the UShas finally chosen this diplomatic direction to overtake Russian and Chinese influences in Africa. It is hence a perfectly played chess game over geopolitical expansion and power. Peace and human rights preached in these agreements however, are turned into industries that are used to further their dominance and hegemony.

Additionally, what makes Morocco exceptional is its officials’ diplomatic maturity and its political stability in comparison to the Middle East and other African countries. Also, Morocco’s ability to repay its debts boosts foreign investors’ confidence to embark on the Moroccan market. Not to mention, Morocco itself needs this kind of political and economic partnership and support as it seeks to take the lead as an African power. However, this pursuit remains far-fetched without having full sovereignty over its lands or without having strong allies.

Meanwhile, Moroccan King Mohamed VI has confirmed that Morocco’s position on Palestine remains unchanged. He has also affirmed that he places his country’s territorial issue and the Palestinian cause at the same level, and that the kingdom will use its new position to push for a conflict resolution in the region. Thus, Morocco is playing it as safe as it could as it is placing itself neither with the current, nor against it.

All in all, Morocco and the Arab regimes’ decision to normalize relations with Israel is not promising of any lasting peace between Palestine and Israel simply because Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories will gain significant legitimacy from the establishment of these diplomatic ties. Especially that these Arab States are not democratic themselves so they can account it for its infringement of international law and human rights. Granted, since the Palestinian question, the right of self-determination and the right of return are not included in the official discourse of these peace agreements, a resolution for the Palestinian- Israeli conflict remains just a myth that appears to be tangible with propaganda and exclusionary media narratives.

– Mohamed El Metmari is an independent writer and researcher affiliated with the faculty of Letters and Humanities of Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Martil, Morocco. He is an Open Hands Initiative’s Conflict Resolution alumnus. Currently, he is conducting a Master’s thesis centered on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His articles have appeared on Aljazeera Arabic, SasaPost, and Countercurrents. He contributed this essay to The Palestine Chronicle.

Morocco in the Midst of Western Sahara Storms After Normalization,المغرب في مهب عواصف صحراوية بعد التطبيع

**Please scroll down for the English version**

المغرب في مهب عواصف صحراوية بعد التطبيع

عمرو علان - Amro 🇵🇸 (@amrobilal77) | Twitter

عمرو علان جريدة الأخبار  الأربعاء 30 كانون الأول 2020

لا يستطيع المرء إلّا أن يتعجّب من مدى قصر نظر الحكم المغربي في إقدامه على خطوته المشينة الأخيرة في التطبيع مع الكيان الصهيوني، التي يصحّ فيها وفي نظيراتها بحق وصف اتفاقيات التتبيع بالكيان الصهيوني، بحسب تعبير أحدهم. فربط الحكم المغربي هذه الفعلة بالاعتراف الأميركي بسيادة المغرب على الصحراء الغربية يضيف إلى هذه الخطوة محاذير من الناحية الاستراتيجية، تضاف إلى المحاذير التقليدية لأي تعامل مع الكيان الغاصب كما سنجادل.

في البدء، إنّ كلّ اعتراف بالكيان الصهيوني يعدّ خيانة بالمطلق لمبادئ العقيدة والثوابت القومية، بغضّ النظر عن أيّ مبرّرات واهمة أو أيّ مكاسب تكتيكية قصيرة الأمد يفرح بها المطبّعون أو بالأحرى المُستتبَعون، ولا سيما في هذه المرحلة التي يعلن فيها الكيان الغاصب ضمّ القدس وأراضي الضفة الغربية. فكل اعتراف بالكيان الصهيوني في هذه المرحلة ينطوي على تنازل عن القدس والمقدسات الإسلامية والمسيحية في فلسطين، ولا تنفع معه تبريرات من قبيل كون الاعتراف بالكيان الصهيوني جاء في سياق ما يسمّى حلّ الدولتين المرفوض أصلاً، حيث من القصور توصيف الصراع العربي الصهيوني على أنه صراع على بقعة جغرافية، بل هو صراع مع كيان استيطاني واحتلالي وظيفي. ويشكّل هذا الكيان قاعدة متقدّمة زرعها الاستعمار القديم كامتداد له في قلب الأمة العربية والإسلامية يجب اجتثاثها، فلا وظيفة لهذا الكيان سوى إطالة زمن الهيمنة الإمبريالية على شعوب منطقتنا. وأما في حالة المغرب، فنجد أنّ هذا الاعتراف قد أضاف إلى كلّ هذه المحاذير العقدية والقومية والوطنية احتمالات دخوله في مرحلة اضطرابات عبر تجدد النزاع العسكري مع سكان الصحراء الغربية وجبهة البوليساريو.
نشأت قضية الصحراء الغربية مع انتهاء الاستعمار الإسباني لتلك المنطقة في عام 1975، الذي ترك منطقة الصحراء الغربية مقسّمة بين دولتي المغرب وموريتانيا. وبعد انسحاب موريتانيا من المناطق التي كانت تسيطر عليها في الصحراء الغربية، وبعد الإعلان عن الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديموقراطية في عام 1976، استمر النزاع المسلّح حول منطقة الصحراء بين جبهة البوليساريو المطالبة بالاستقلال والمغرب على تلك المنطقة إلى عام 1991، حين قرّرت جبهة البوليساريو وقف العمليات العسكرية ضد الجيش المغربي، وصدر القرار الأممي الرقم 690 بشأن قضية الصحراء الغربية الذي نص في مضمونه على إجراء استفتاء لحسم هذه القضية، إما باستقلال الصحراء أو بانضمامها إلى المغرب. ولقد تباينت مواقف الأحزاب والقوى العربية بشأن قضية الصحراء، منذ نشأتها، بين مؤيّد لحق سكّان المنطقة الصحراوية في الاستقلال وتقرير مصيرهم، ولا سيما في ظِلّ حكم المغرب الملكي الذي يعدّ رجعياً ومتخاذلاً من الناحية الوطنية، وبين معارض للمزيد من التقسيم في الأقطار العربية بغض النظر عن طبيعة حكم هذه الأقطار. أما اليوم، وبعد مقايضة المغرب لتطبيعها مع الكيان الصهيوني بفرض سيادتها على الصحراء الغربية، فيُعتقَد أن يكون لهذا انعكاس على مواقف بعض القوى العربية من قضية الصحراء لجهة تأييدها لاستقلال منطقة الصحراء عن النظام المطبّع، وإعطاء جبهة البوليساريو المزيد من المشروعية الشعبية في قتالها من أجل الاستقلال، إضافة إلى أن الاعتراف الأميركي المسموم بسيادة المغرب على منطقة الصحراء الغربية، وتجاهله للقرار الأممي الرقم 690 والوصول لحل لهذه القضية الشائكة عبر الاستفتاء يفتح الباب أمام احتمالية انهيار وقف إطلاق النار الهش بين جبهة البوليساريو والمغرب. فهذا الاعتراف الخبيث وغير المسؤول يحشر جبهة البوليساريو في الزاوية من جهة تعويلها على قرارات الأمم المتحدة من أجل التوصل لحلّ عادل لقضية سكان منطقة الصحراء، ويضع منطقة المغرب العربي بعمومها أمام احتمالات تجدد دوامة العنف والصدام العسكري، سيما أن الاعتراف الأميركي لم يأخذ في الحسبان مواقف الدول المعنية بالأمر، من الجزائر وموريتانيا. وبهذا تكون أميركا كعادتها قد صبّت الزيت على النار في بؤر التوتر في وطننا العربي، ويجد المرء نفسه مضطراً إلى موافقة مستشار الأمن القومي الأميركي السابق جون بولتون في ما ذهب إليه في مقاله الأخير في مجلة «فورن بوليسي» الأميركية بهذا الشأن، حيث وصف قرار إدارة الرئيس دونالد ترامب، الذي ستنتهي ولايته قريباً، بالاعتراف بسيادة المغرب على منطقة الصحراء الغربية بالقرار الأهوج الذي يهدّد الاستقرار في منطقة المغرب العربي بعمومه. لا نودّ تحديد موقف من قضية استقلال الصحراء الغربية في هذا المقال، لكن إذا تبنّينا جدلاً الموقف المغربي من هذه القضية الذي يعد منطقة الصحراء الغربية جزءاً من الأرض المغربية، فيمكن وصف ما فعله الحكم المغربي بأنه قد اعترف بما لا يملك لمن لا يستحق، مقابل اعتراف من لا يملك له بما يستحق.

بهذا، نجد أنّ قرار الحكم المغربي بإخراج علاقاته السرية المشبوهة مع الكيان الصهيوني إلى العلن وبشكل رسمي، وانضمامه إلى قافلة الانبطاح أمام العدو الصهيوني، لن يعود عليه إلا بخسائر استراتيجية، سواء أكان في الداخل المغربي حيث يضع الحكم في مواجهة شعبه المغربي الأصيل الذي يرفض كلّ أشكال التعامل مع عدو الأمة الأول كسائر شعوب وطننا العربي والإسلامي، أم من ناحية كونه يرفع من احتمالات تفاقم التوترات ذات الطبيعة المزمنة على الحدود الجنوبية للمملكة المغربية، وهذا بالطبيعة ستكون له انعكاسات سيئة على سائر دول المغرب العربي.
ولا ننسى ختاماً الإشارة إلى أنّ كلّ ما قدّمته الإدارة الأميركية الحالية في هذه المرحلة كمقابل لتطبيع الحكم المغربي مع كيان الاحتلال، لا يعدو كونه إعلان اعتراف بسيادة المغرب على أراضي منطقة الصحراء الغربية. وهذا الإعلان لا يُلزِم الإدارة الأميركية المقبلة ويمكنها التنصّل منه. فبأيّ أثمان بخسة ومسمومة يتقاطر جزء من النظام العربي المتهالك على بيع الثوابت الإسلامية والقومية والوطنية في أسواق نخاسة الأعداء؟ وبالتأكيد لا نستثني السلطة الفلسطينية من هذا، فهي باتت أسوأ من تلك الأنظمة العربية المتهالكة في الشكل والمضمون.

** كاتب فلسطيني وباحث سياسي

Morocco in the Midst of Western Sahara Storms After Normalization

By Amro Allan 

First published in Arabic on Al-Akhbar newspaper Wed. 30 December 2020

The short-sightedness of the Moroccan government in its recent shameful agreement to normalize and establish diplomatic relations with the Zionist Entity called ‘Israel’ is truly puzzling. The Moroccan government stated that this agreement was the result of a deal with the current U.S. administration, where the U.S. recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. But this exchange adds additional strategic dangers to the usual perils presented by all normalization agreements with the Zionist Entity, as this article will argue. 

First and foremost, any recognition of the Zionist Entity is an absolute betrayal of Arab rights and national principles, regardless of any flawed justifications or any short-term tactical gains that the normalizers rejoice in. This is more so after recent developments, where the occupation declared the annexation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is apparent that normalizing relations with ‘Israel’ at this stage means acceptance of this annexation and abandoning the Christian and Islamic Holy places in Palestine. Any attempt to justify such steps towards normalization with ‘Israel’ must be firmly rejected – justifications such as that those normalization agreements are in the context of the two-state solution, which is a non-solution in the first place. 

The issue of Western Sahara is a remnant of the Spanish colonization of that region. After the end of Spanish colonization with the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, the Western Sahara region was divided between Morocco and Mauritania. Then, after Mauritania withdrew from the areas it controlled of Western Sahara, and the declaration of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976, the armed conflict over the Sahara region between the Polisario Front for Independence and Morocco in that region continued. In 1991, the Polisario Front suspended military operations against Morocco, in return for a referendum on the future of Western Sahara status under the observation of the UN in accordance with UNSC resolution 690.

Since the inception of the Western Sahara issue, the positions of Arab political parties and Arab people in general has fallen into two main camps: those who support the right of the Sahrawi people to independence and self-determination, and who in their majority regard the Moroccan monarchy as autocratic and regressive; and those who are opposed to further partition of Arab countries regardless of the nature of the rule of these countries. However, after Morocco traded recognition of ‘Israel’ for the U.S. proclamation to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, it is believed that this may cast a further shadow over the legitimacy of Moroccan claims in Western Sahara in the eyes of many Arabs, while simultaneously giving more credence to the Polisario Front’s war of independence. Moreover, the poisoned U.S. proclamation in violation of international law and UNSC Resolution 690, will diminish the Sahrawi people’s hope of ever having the referendum on the future status of Western Sahara which they were promised by the UNSC. This will likely force the Polisario Front into a corner; and will lead them to question the international community’s commitment to reach a just solution to their cause. All this opens the door wide to the possibility of the collapse of the tenuous Polisario-Morocco ceasefire. The ramifications of this déjà vu situation are dire, as this will most likely spiral the whole region into instability, especially when the US proclamation on the thorny Western Sahara issue ignored the other regional countries positions on this matter, namely Algeria and Mauritania. And one finds himself here begrudgingly agreeing with the former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton, when he argued in his article published in the Foreign Policy Magazine ‘Biden Must Reverse Course on Western Sahara’, that the U.S. proclamation may negatively affect that fragile region. Thus, one finds that the US did what it does best, namely fueling unrest in the Arab region to appease the Zionist Entity.

The aim of this article is not to take a stance on the Western Sahara conflict, but one way of viewing what Morocco did by recognizing the Zionist’s sovereignty over historical Palestine in exchange for U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, is tantamount to Morocco giving what is not theirs to give, in exchange for the U.S. giving them what is not for the U.S. to give. 

Arabs will continue to regard ‘Israel’ as illegitimate, the liberation of Palestine as one of their cornerstone principles, and in that the Moroccan people are no exception. Hence, the Moroccan government’s treacherous decision to normalize relations with the Zionist Entity will only cause Morocco to suffer strategic losses in the long run, be it driving a wedge between the government and its people on the internal front, or by stirring up a dormant conflict on Morocco’s southern borders with the Polisario Front and the Sahrawi people.

** Palestinian writer and political researcher

Western Sahara Is Extremely Important For The Anti-Imperialist Cause

By Andrew Korybko

Source

Western Sahara Is Extremely Important For The Anti-Imperialist Cause
Most folks never heard about Western Sahara until Trump unilaterally recognized Morocco’s claims to this disputed region of the Maghreb last week in exchange for it agreeing to a peace deal with “Israel”, but it’s actually extremely important for the anti-imperialist cause since its standing is similar to Palestine and Kashmir’s in the eyes of international law.

Trump’s unilateral recognition of Morocco’s claims to the disputed Maghreb region of Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat formalizing its long-held and not-so-secret ties with Tel Aviv caught many observers by surprise who previously weren’t familiar with this unresolved conflict. Palestine and Kashmir are much more globally prominent because of the involvement of nuclear powers and the efforts of some to focus more on the inter-religious optics of these conflicts than their international legal origins. Western Sahara satisfies neither of those two “exciting” criteria, hence why it’s largely been forgotten about by most of the world since the issue first came to the fore of international politics in the mid-1970s.

Francoist Spain’s “decolonization” process saw the totalitarian country refuse to grant independence to the Western Sahara, instead dividing it between neighboring Morocco and Mauritania against the wishes of the indigenous Sahrawi people as represented by the Polisario Front. This group in turn proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with the support of neighboring Algeria, which has an historic rivalry with Morocco and was also sympathetic to socialist causes such as this one during the Old Cold War. Mauritania eventually abandoned its claims to the disputed region, and after over a decades’ worth of fighting, Morocco and the Western Sahara reached a UN-backed agreement in 1991 to hold a referendum on the region’s political status.

The vote never took place since the two warring sides couldn’t agree on who’s eligible to vote, with the primary problem being Morocco’s insistence on letting settlers participate. Western Sahara is also de-facto divided by a sand wall that the occupying army built to solidify its control over approximately 80% of the territory. With Trump’s unilateral recognition of Rabat’s claim to the entire region (which might eventually be followed by others such as “Israel”), as well as his government’s subsequent decision to move forward with a $1 billion arms deal, it’s extremely unlikely that last month’s end of the 29-year ceasefire will result in any serious gains being made by the Polisario Front.

Russia denounced the US’ political decision as illegal under international law, which is an entirely accurate assessment, but this isn’t expected to have any tangible effect on altering the conflict’s dynamics. Only Algeria could potentially have an impact, but its ongoing domestic political problems over nearly the past two years have forced it to suddenly look inward instead of continue with its traditional policy of presenting itself as a regional leader. Moreover, the US’ planned arms deal might ultimately shift the regional balance of power in a decisive way, especially if “Israel” gets involved too, or at the very least spark a new arms race between Morocco and Algeria as the latter looks to Russia and China for more military support in response.

Amidst all of this, anti-imperialists shouldn’t ever forget the international legal importance of the Western Saharan cause. However one feels about the legitimacy of either side’s claims in the conflict, it’s nevertheless a UNSC-recognized dispute that’s supposed to be resolved by a referendum. The precedent of the US unilaterally abandoning its international legal obligations is disturbing and arguably also destabilizing, though it’s obviously doing this in pursuit of its own national interests as it subjectively understands them. The problem, however, is that this might embolden other claimants over different UNSC-recognized disputed territories across the world to double down on their maximalist positions, thus making it much more difficult to resolve those issues.

Another important point is that international law exists not solely for “moral” reasons like its most passionate supporters claim (since it’s obviously imperfect), but for practical ones related to the necessity of having predictable means to resolve international disputes in order to avoid unintentional escalations that could quickly evolve into larger and more uncontrollable conflicts. Unilateral maximalist claims by one party are troublesome, but they become even worse when they’re supported by self-interested external actors who might also have an ulterior motive to divide and rule the region in question like the US clearly does in the Maghreb, Mideast, and South Asia regarding Western Sahara, Palestine, and Kashmir.

The Western Saharan cause is therefore inextricable from the Palestinian and Kashmiri ones in the eyes of international law, which is why supporters of those two should stand in solidarity with their Sahrawi counterparts. The issue can only legally be settled by a referendum according to the UNSC regardless of one’s personal views towards the conflict, but since that has yet to happen and might very well never occur after Trump’s combined diplomatic-military support for Morocco’s claims gives Rabat no incentive to comply, observers can’t help but be concerned. The only way to remain consistent with supporting Palestine and Kashmir is to support Western Sahara’s UNSC-recognized right to a referendum.

Israel and Morocco to normalise ties as US recognises Rabat’s claim to Western Sahara

North African kingdom the fourth Arab state to build full diplomatic relations with Israel in four months

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (AFP)

By Oscar RickettDaniel Hilton

Published date: 10 December 2020 16:22 UTC

Israel and Morocco will normalise ties and the United States is to recognise Western Sahara as part of the North African kingdom, US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday.

Morocco becomes the fourth Arab country to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in four months, following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

“Today, I signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” Trump tweeted.

In a separate tweet, the president then added: “Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deal as “another great light of peace”.

The Polisario Front, an independence movement from Western Sahara, a disputed desert territory, said it “regrets highly” Trump’s decision but will continue its struggle.

Morocco’s Royal Court said King Mohammed VI had called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated his commitment to the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Previous relations

Though Israel and Morocco have not had full diplomatic ties since the former’s founding in 1948, they have nonetheless shared relations and intelligence.

Morocco and Israel began low-level ties in 1993 after the latter reached a peace agreement with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as part of the Oslo Accords. But Rabat suspended relations with Israel after the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

Morocco described Thursday’s announcement as the “resumption” of diplomatic relations with Israel.The open secret of Israeli-Moroccan business is growing

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Around half a million Moroccan Jews live in Israel, and Israelis are known to occasionally visit the kingdom, and Netanyahu said he expects direct flights to begin soon.

In recent years, King Mohammed VI has encouraged the restoration and preservation of his country’s Jewish heritage, which Moroccan Jewish Israelis have participated in.

Moroccan activists have highlighted frequent steps towards the normalisation of relations with Israel, which the government has denied or remained silent about.

In February, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had lobbied the United States to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat taking steps to normalise ties with Israel. 

A few months later, Amnesty International revealed that Israeli spyware was used to target Moroccan activists. 

Territorial claims

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, confirmed that recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara is linked to kingdom’s normalisation with Israel.

“It also could possibly break the logjam to help advance the issues in the Western Sahara where we want the Polisario people to have a better opportunity to live a better life,” Kushner told reporters on Thursday.

“The president felt like this conflict was holding them back as opposed to bring it forward. This recognition will strengthen America’s relationship with Morocco.”

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was claimed by Morocco in 1957 and is believed to have significant offshore oil reserves and mineral resources. Western Sahara: A decades-long sovereignty battle for ‘Africa’s last colony’

Read More »

Its indigenous population has fiercely rejected Moroccan control, however, and between 1975 and 1991 the Polisario Front fought an insurgency against Rabat’s presence.

Polisario estimates the indigenous population of Western Sahara to be between 350,000 and 500,000 and has long called for their right to a referendum on independence, something that has also been promised by UN resolutions. 

Polisario has repeatedly accused Morocco of exploiting the region’s natural resources while half of its population await a referendum in camps and in exile. 

Last month, Moroccan forces and Polisario fighters clashed over a protest blocking a highway into Mauritania, with the Sahrawi movement declaring the 1991 ceasefire over.

Morocco’s Royal Court said the US will open a consulate in the Western Sahara. Last month, Bahrain, which normalised ties with Israel in September, also said it was opening a consulate in the territory.

Trump’s announcement was denounced by Sahrawis.

“The Polisario and Sahrawi government condemn in the strongest terms the fact that outgoing American President Donald Trump attributes to Morocco something which does not belong” to the country, said the Sahrawi information ministry in a statement to AFP.

Ahmed Ettanji, a journalist and activist in Western Sahara’s Laayoune, told Middle East Eye that the move was a blatant tit-for-tat strategy. 

“It’s like an exchange: supporting the so-called Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for political recognition of Israel,” Ettanji said.  

‘We were shocked when we saw Trump’s tweet. At the same time, it’s not something new. As a Sahrawi, I’ve seen the US back Morocco for many decades’

– Ahmed Ettanji, Sahrawi journalist and activist

“We were shocked when we saw Trump’s tweet. At the same time, it’s not something new. As a Sahrawi, I’ve seen the US back Morocco for many decades. But there is some hope that the next administration will be different.”

Sahrawi activist Mohamed Elbaikam said the announcement had been anticipated.

“We believe that this position is an attempt to bypass international law and all its principles,” he told MEE.

“We believe that the next US administration led by [Joe] Biden will correct the American position, just as the American people will not accept it.”

Mahmoud Lemaadel, a Sahrawi citizen journalist, told MEE Trump’s announcement was like “the blind leading the blind”.

US Congresswoman Betty McCollum, an outspoken advocate for Palestinian human rights, also denounced Trump’s move to recognise Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara.

“I condemn Trump’s unilateral recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco’s diplomatic recognition of Israel,” McCollum wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “The Sahrawi people have an internationally recognized right to self-determination that must be respected.”

Jim Inhofe, a senior Republican Senator who supports the people of Western Sahara’s push for self-determination, accused Trump of “trading the rights of a voiceless people” to secure the Morocco-Israel deal.

“Today’s White House announcement alleging Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara is shocking and deeply disappointing. I am saddened that the rights of the Western Saharan people have been traded away,” Inhofe said in a statement.

War on Want, an anti-poverty charity based in London, warned that the move was “not about peacebuilding”. 

“It’s a cynical attempt to rally repressive regimes around some of their most egregious policies: military occupation and human rights abuse,” Ryvka Barnard, the group’s senior campaigner, said in a statement on Thursday. 

“President Trump calls this announcement a ‘breakthrough’, but it comes on the back of the recent Moroccan breach of a decades-old ceasefire in occupied Western Sahara, as well as Israel’s ongoing expansion of illegal settlements, destruction of Palestinian homes and structures, and lethal violence against Palestinian civilians, including children,” Barnard said. 

“This move smacks of the colonial mindset that carved up the world at the expense of its inhabitants & seeks to normalise injustice.”

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