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ISRAEL: Officials find Morocco a tough room these days


Officially, diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel are "suspended," according to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the way things have been since 2000, when Morocco (along with Tunisia and Oman) closed "interest offices" opened only six years earlier, in better days.

Still, relations continue, quiet and generally fair. Besides the several thousand tourists every year and warm sentiments Israel's Moroccan Jews maintain still today, Israeli academics, journalists and sometimes politicians travel frequently enough to Morocco.

But this month, the Marrakech express was a pretty bumpy ride for Israeli officials.

President Shimon Peres canceled his planned trip to Morocco after being turned down by King Mohammed VI for a meeting. Peres, invited to Marrakech to be a keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum,  wanted a meeting with the king to advance the peace process. But word came from the king --  who is said to hold Peres in high regard -- that the Israeli president was welcome in Morocco but that the time for a high-profile meeting was wrong. Peres preferred to call off his trip altogether.

Next bumpy stop was Rabat, where the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean was convening. Among the Israeli delegation were Rueven Rivlin, speaker of Israel's parliament  and veteran politician, and Majalli Whbee, a Druze lawmaker from the opposition and among the country's most prominent minority politicians. Rivlin -- scheduled to meet Morocco's foreign minister and local chairman of parliament -- was surprised that all his meetings were canceled, but he was otherwise respectfully received.

Rivlin had intended to speak about cooperation and common challenges in the Mediterranean, "beyond politics and conflict" but changed his speech after the chairman of Morocco's Assembly of Representatives Abed el-Wahhab Radi spoke harshly of Israel's policies, according to media reports. "When the Palestinians are ready for peace, there will be peace," Rivlin said.

En route to Morocco, Rivlin met with Gerard Larcher, president of the French Senate. The settlements are not an obstacle to peace, Rivlin insisted, adding that the Palestinians were using settlement construction as an excuse to quit the peace talks.

The renewed settlement construction was an obstacle -- at least to the planned meeting between the president and the king, some say. Daniel Ben-Simon, a Moroccan-born Israeli lawmaker, said it was the planned construction in East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods announced mid-October that did the meeting in.

Meeting in France a few weeks ago, Ben-Simon had inquired of Andre Azoulay, veteran advisor to the royal house and Moroccan Jew himself, how relations were doing lately. In one word (and three syllables, les French way), he said, "catastrophe." The Israeli lawmaker said in a recent radio interview that this is worrisome, as Morocco is a seismograph for Israel's standing in the Arab world. Currently, it's pretty poor.

Rivlin did register a small success, however, in getting Israeli legislator Whbee elected as one of the vice chairman of the parliamentary assembly.  This took some persuading, especially considering the competition was Turkey, whose relations with Israel continue to worsen. Rivlin threatened Israel would quit the assembly if the Turkish representative was elected.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Photo: Small monument in Kiryat Ekron, Israel, pays tribute to the late King of Morocco, Hassan II, noting his "contribution to peace in our region." Credit: Batsheva Sobelman

Comments () | Archives (11)

When Tel Aviv wants peace, there will be peace...but Tel Aviv doesn't want peace, it wants land, all of it, my land, your land: Mine! Mine! Mine!

From Tel Aviv's point of view, the only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian. Seems I remember that white folks used to say that about Native Americans.

Too bad for them that God was on the white man's side; ditto for the Palestinians.

If the problem is religion and not borders, it shouldn't be a brainer.

Ignorance and propaganda a powerfull tool used by NG.

The Palestinians have created their own nightmare of a life. They have always been the ultimate aggressors against Israel. The muslims arabs have a very intolerant violent culture, and can't even live peacefully with each other. The reason only arabs have lived in those lands, for so long, is because they have driven off or killed anyone else who is different from them.

No one comes close to war crimes committed by Israel. For example. 1441 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel since September 29th 2000. 24145 Palestinian homes demolished by Israel. Illegal settlements, largest concentration camp in history Gaza, violated 65 UN resolution. Ariel Sharon committed a genocide in lebanon in the cities of Sabra and Shatila killing 3500 unarmed palestinians mostly women, children and elderly. He is paying the price now. Hamas and Hezbollah were born to resist zionist genocide committed against arabs. They are called terrorists. If any country in the world commit anything like that they would have been invaded by the USA and their politicians Hung (like they did in Irak) Want more war crimes committed by Israel? Check this website out.

It should really have been noted that MK Majalli Whbee has a B.A. History of Islam, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, M.A. History of the New Middle East, Haifa University. He served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the IDF. He serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset (Rivlin is Speaker) and is currently Chair, Israel-Spain Parliamentary Friendship League. The party he represents, Kadima is the largest party of the Knesset and overwhelmingly Jewish.

To simply say he is a member of the opposition does not do him justice and gives a false impression of the conditions for minorities, especially Druze, in Israel.

It must come as a shock to the Arabs that a non Jewish member of Parliament is permitted to come to Morocco, criticise Israel and then safely return to Israel.

That lesson in liberal democracy probably did more good for Israel than his message did harm

I think that R. Rivlin in wrong on his assessment of the settlement issue.
Settlements are the the crux of the problem, among others.
Up until Israel ceases the construction of the settlements in the W.B. and withdrawals its troops from Palestine no peace will be achieved.
When the Tel Aviv wants peace, there will be peace!

Israel is a democracy under seige for 62 years and is certainly a good 'rogue' state among all those dictatorships, kings, sheiks, tyrants, presidents-for-life, waring generalls, Grand Allatolas, oligarcs, theocracies, and terrorist gangs. Israel insists on equal and fair compliance with international law to the letter, and this really bothers people who think the law is for justifying a desired anti-semitic outcome rather than mediating peace.

Israelis should adopt the tactics of those who work toward their eradication and go on the offense with their position. Surely they can expose the religious and cultural apartheid which has resulted in misery, hardship, and repression for minorities throughout most of Arab world. They should speak for the Berbers, Kurds, Copts, Maronites, Jews and others who struggle to maintain their culture and practice their religions. Israel's standing in the Arab world is that it's a thorn in their side because it's a successful sovereign, non Muslim entity where Arabs once reigned after conquest and colonization in the name of Islam. It’s been nearly 500 years since Arabs ruled the area where Israel exists and they still consider it rightfully theirs. The headlines would be essentially the same if Israel were a Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or any other non-Arab Muslim country. Consider if peace would break out if all Israelis converted to Islam. If we are to believe what Arabs teach and preach to their children, the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with borders and everything to do with religion.

I question whether the moderator of this forum realizes the political nature of the screening process being used to reject or accept postings? I am unable have postings accepted which go to the heart of the Arab/Israeli conflict if the terms apartheid or ethnic cleansing are mentioned. Yet a strong case can be made that Arab-Muslim religious apartheid and a demand for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from areas Arabs to govern are the core issues. Neither term violates the comment guidelines and are worthy of discussion.

Israel should be treated as a rogue state because, as long as Israel insists that international law does not apply to Israel, that is what Israel is. A dangerous loose cannon. It is too bad that the U.S. Congress is afraid to stand up to the powerful Israel lobby.


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