Israel’s new leader has received “warm greetings” in a letter from Morocco’s king as Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh visited the country for discussions on the Palestinian cause.
The message sent by King Mohammed VI congratulated Naftali Bennett on becoming Israel’s first new leader in 12 years after the coalition government he cobbled together ousted long-serving leader Benjamin Netanyahu this week.
Morocco will “continue its efforts to promote peace, justice and coexistence in the Middle East, which will ensure security, stability and brotherhood for all peoples living side by side”, said the king’s correspondence.
“Warm greetings and best wishes for great success,” said the letter, which was quoted by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday. Morocco has North Africa’s largest Jewish community of about 3,000 people, and Israel is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin. It became the fourth Arab state last year, along with the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Bahrain, to normalise ties with Israel under US-brokered deals.
Palestinians have condemned the agreements, calling them a betrayal of a longstanding position that Israel first meets their statehood demand before achieving normalisation.
Meanwhile, Haniyeh met on Wednesday with Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani and officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD).
Haniyeh thanked El Othmani for the invitation to Morocco. “I hope that this visit will lead to getting the desired and expected results from the brotherly country Morocco,” said Haniyeh.
El Othmani said in a statement, “The delegation will hold discussions with the leadership of the Justice and Development Party regarding the latest developments in the Palestinian cause and how to support it.”
Haniyeh was making his first official trip to Rabat after an 11-day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which began on May 10. The Israeli attacks on Gaza killed at least 256 people, including dozens of women and children, and left behind a trail of destruction. Health centres, media offices, and schools were among the structures targeted.
King Mohammed VI has said negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are the only way to reach a final, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict.
Before Israel’s establishment in 1948, Morocco was home to a large Jewish population, many of whose ancestors migrated to North Africa from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition.
Israel and Morocco established low-level diplomatic relations during the 1990s following Israel’s interim peace accords with the Palestinians, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in 2000.
Since then, however, the informal ties have continued, and an estimated 50,000 Israelis travel to Morocco each year on trips to learn about the Jewish community and retrace their family histories.