“On January 10, 1961, on its 13th voyage, the Egoz set sail from [Morocco] with 44 Jewish immigrants on board. All the immigrants drowned, along with an Israeli radio operator and one of the ship’s Spanish crew members. Three other crew members, all Spaniards, were rescued. 22 bodies were recovered and the rest were lost at sea.” (Wikipedia)
It was illegal at that time for Jews to leave Morocco for Israel. However, after this tragedy the law changed and over 200,000 Moroccan Jews came to retire in the new Jewish homeland, including Elana’s (my wife) family. However, that led to many years of hard feeling between the two nations…However…
U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that Morocco will become the fourth country in four months to join the Abraham Accords and normalize relations with Israel.
The news came via Twitter.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! 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!” Trump tweeted.
The ever-growing list of Muslim nations making peace with Israel is shifting the dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa. In August, the United Arab Emirates said it would make peace with Israel, soon followed by another Gulf state, Bahrain. The two signed the Abraham Accords with Israel in a signing ceremony on Sept. 15 in Washington D.C. Sudan later joined in October, a huge coup for Israel since terror groups were using the African nation as a conduit to transport arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
This deal “further enhances Israel’s security, while creating opportunities for Morocco and Israel to deepen their economic ties and improve the lives of their people,” Presidential senior adviser Jared Kushner said.
In his announcement this week, Trump said the U.S. will recognize Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara, which is not recognized by the United Nations and has been the subject of an international dispute for decades. After the agreement was announced, the White House notified Congress of potential weapons sales to Morocco worth $1 billion and another report said that the U.S. is also considering investing up to $3 billion in Moroccan institutions following the deal.
But everyone in the region is waiting for Saudi Arabia. Two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. News of the meeting was leaked to the media causing a surge in speculation that Saudi was on the verge of declaring normalization with Israel. While that has not happened. Kushner said that an Israel-Saudi agreement was inevitable and only a matter of time.
“Israel and Saudi Arabia coming together and having full normalization at this point is an inevitability, but the timeframe… is something that has to be worked out,” Kushner said.
Saudi Arabia has insisted that any normalization deal must be accompanied by a solution for Palestinians based on a two-state solution. But many believe that Saudi Arabia has tacitly given its blessing to all of the other deals made thus far.
What the deal with Morocco means for Israel is easier access to the country and the opening of diplomatic offices in each country. An estimated 50,000 Israelis travel to Morocco annually already, some taking Jewish heritage trips and others just purely for tourism. But Israelis of Moroccan descent still maintain strong ties to the country and culture and celebrated the restoration of ties between Morocco and Israel. The Jewish community is small but well received there.
The agreement includes direct flights between the two countries.
Palestinians viewed this deal as another betrayal of their cause.
“Any Arab retreat from the  Arab Peace Initiative, which stipulates that normalization 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,” said Bassam al-Salhi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee.
Meanwhile a Hamas spokesman called Morocco’s decision to make peace with Israel, a “sin.”