- Diplomatic activities between Morocco and Israel have been on a high gear lately, despite the fact that Rabat broke its ties with Jerusalem six years ago. Sahrawi sources claim to have proof Morocco is offering the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for a strong Israeli lobbying in favour of Rabat's Western Sahara policies.
The Israeli press this week revealed that relations between the two countries indeed are thawing. Before the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada six years ago, Morocco was among the few Arab countries to have formal and cordial ties with Jerusalem. Morocco further traditionally has been one of the safest harbours for Jews in the Arab world. In solidarity with Palestinians, however, Morocco closed its official mission in Israel and broke all formal ties.
According to the Israeli daily 'Maariv', Rabat's solidarity however only was superficial. Since 2003, there have been regular contacts on the highest level between the two countries. In September 2003, King Mohamed VI even received Israel's thus Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom at one of his vacation palaces for political talks.
The daily claims to have information indicating Morocco may now be "resuming ties with Israel." It points to several secret trips to Jerusalem by high-ranking Moroccan officials, meeting discreetly with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials. "The Moroccans are signalling that they are ready to thaw the political freeze with Israel," a senior political source was quoted as saying by 'Maariv'.
The same sources also revealed Morocco's "price" for resuming ties. The horse trading includes guarantees from the Israeli government to "promote Moroccan interests" among the international community. No further details were given by the Israeli sources.
But other sources, across the Atlantic Ocean, claim to have seen the first results of this Moroccan-Israeli horse trading. In Washington, "Israeli and Jewish lobbyists" have increased the pressure on the US government to accept Morocco's so-called autonomy plan for Western Sahara - former Spanish colony occupied by Morocco since 1976 despite numerous UN protests. The controversial autonomy plan opposes UN demands of an independence referendum in Western Sahara and instead proposes to make the disputed territory an autonomous Moroccan province.
According sources in the US pro-Sahrawi lobbying environment, their efforts to raise the Western Sahara issue in the Washington Congress and Senate have increasingly been countered by "a very active American-Jewish and Israeli support to Moroccan initiatives regarding Western Sahara."
Only last month, before the UN Security Council again was to discuss different solutions to the Western Sahara conflict, US President George W Bush received a strongly worded letter in support of Moroccan viewpoints, signed by almost 170 members of Congress. The congressmen urged President Bush to embrace Rabat's proposal to make sure Morocco could continue its efforts to fight terrorism in the volatile North Africa region.
Not long ago, pressure from US Senate and Congress politicians directed at the White House was dominated by pro-Sahrawi viewpoints. Congressmen Donald Payne and Joseph Pitts for years successfully have led the fight to convince the White House to remain sceptical against a Moroccan imposed solution. But during the last months, political analysts in the US capital hold that "Washington has moved towards Morocco's position."
Pro-Sahrawi sources in Washington today told afrol News they agreed with these observations. Rumours in the US capital have it that "the Moroccans made a commitment to officially recognise Israel in exchange for the success of their 'autonomy plan'." This, according to the same rumours, would explain that "Israel is always the common denominator of the Moroccan support in Washington, not just in Congress but also the think-tanks, most of which are connected with the same lobby."
Sahrawi officials contacted by afrol News did not want to comment on the issue, emphasising that large parts of the Jewish Community in the US were supportive and sympathetic to the Sahrawi issue.
But activists are on high alert regarding the Moroccan attempts to break its hitherto diplomatic isolation on the Western Sahara conflict. But according to Ronny Hansen, Chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, "it should be no surprise for anyone to see these countries cooperating closely."
"They both maintain illegal and brutal occupations of neighbouring countries, with the active support of bigger powers like the US and France," Mr Hansen told afrol News. "Even with all the experience Israel has in dodging international law and criticism for its occupation, Morocco probably has a lot to teach the Israelis: Few can match the Moroccan regime in deceit, manipulation of the facts and Orwellian doublespeak. This is truly an unholy alliance that spells further grief for the region," the activist warned.
The comparison and warnings are not far fetched. In the 1980s, as Morocco built its wall throughout the desert to separate its troops from the Polisario independence fighters, Israeli engineers and experts were central to the planning and constructions, an increasing number of evidence indicates.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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