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Morocco, Israel agree to normalise relations in US-brokered deal

RABAT, Morocco: Morocco and Israel agreed to normalise relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with the Zionist state in the past four months.

As part of the agreement, US President Donald Trump agreed to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.

Morocco is the fourth country since August to strike a deal aimed at normalising relations with Israel. The others were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Palestinians have been critical of the normalisation deals, saying Arab countries have set back the cause of peace by abandoning a long-standing demand that Israel gives up land for a Palestinian state before it can receive recognition.

Palestinian officials reacted angrily to the announcement. Bassam as-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, condemned the deal.

“Any Arab retreat from the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative, which stipulates that normalisation comes only after Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, is unacceptable and increases Israel’s belligerence and its denial of the Palestinian people’s rights,” Salhi said.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “This is a sin and it doesn’t serve the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation uses every new normalisation to increase its aggression against the Palestinian people and increase its settlement expansion.”

Moroccan King Mohammmed told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Thursday that Rabat stands by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a royal court statement said.

The king added negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are the only way to reach a final, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the normalisation deal with Morocco as “another great light of peace”, saying there would be direct flights between the countries and the opening of diplomatic missions.

Under the agreement, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel, grant overflights, and also direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis.

“They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies,” White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner told reporters.

Kushner said it was an “inevitability” that Saudi Arabia will also recognise Israel.

The White House has tried to get Saudi Arabia to sign on to a normalisation deal with Israel, believing if they agreed other Arab nations would follow. But Saudi Arabia has signalled it is not ready.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said last week Riyadh would only consider such a move if a peace deal “delivers a Palestinian state with dignity and with a workable sovereignty that Palestinians can accept”.

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said Thursday’s announcement was another example of “America as a diplomatic mercenary on behalf of Israel”.

“Let’s call it what it is – the imperial proclamation. At the end of the day, Washington is using its influence around the world on behalf of Israel, or rather Israel is outsourcing American power for its own benefit in the greater Middle East,” said Bishara.

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