Bringing the relations out into the sunlight removes the stigma from those relations, and – as a result – goes a long way toward removing a stigma from Israel as well.
https://www.jpost.com-By JPOST EDITORIAL
The two countries, these nay-sayers said, have for years had relations, sometimes open, sometimes clandestine. Furthermore, tens of thousands of Israelis visit the North African kingdom every year. The new formal ties do not include opening embassies or an exchange of ambassadors, so what’s the big deal?
If ties with Israel are only done deep in the shadows; if meetings between senior officials can only take place in hotel rooms in third countries; if any information about contacts that leaks out must then be instantly denied, the message projected is that there is something inherently wrong, illicit and even illegitimate about those ties.
Countries – like people – only sneak around with those whom they are embarrassed to openly be seen with in public. That Morocco was willing to sneak around with Israel for so long, but did not want to be seen in the open with the Jewish state, sent a message that any link with Israel was somehow bad.
Thursday’s announcement goes a long way toward erasing that perception. From now on, thanks primarily to the Trump administrations paradigm shift in how to foster Arab-Israeli relations, Israeli-Moroccan ties will be open and robust. Which does not mean that there will not be disagreements – there will be, primarily over the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem.
But bringing the relations out into the sunlight removes the stigma from those relations, and – as a result – goes a long way toward removing a stigma from Israel as well. And that is critical, because peace can only prosper when people across the Muslim world do not see Israel as evil.
The Palestinians also understand this, which is why they are so fervently opposed to Arab and Muslim countries normalizing ties with Israel. They wanted to use this card as leverage against Israel, ensuring that it would never get its longed-for recognition and would retain its stigma status until it gave the Palestinians exactly what they demanded.
By going the way of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Morocco is signaling to other countries that still may be sitting on the fence – from important countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, to less significant ones like Djibouti and Niger – that there is no sin in dealing with the Jewish state. On the contrary, that there are definite benefits to be had.
And this is where the Trump administration has been so helpful. The Arab world did not just suddenly realize that Israel has much to offer in terms of technology, agricultural expertise, water management and cybersecurity. This is not new. Nor is it new that Israel and the Sunni Arab countries share the same threat assessment regarding Iran. That was as true a decade ago, as it is today.
Why then, wasn’t all that enough to cement ties in the past? Because only recently did Washington enter the picture and show a willingness to give things that the Arab countries wanted in order to foster ties with Israel.
The UAE wants F35s? Make peace with Israel and you’ll get them. Sudan wants off the terror list? Make peace with Israel and Washington will see what it can do. Morocco wants sovereignty over Western Sahara? Formalize ties with Jerusalem and the US will recognize that sovereignty.
What is strikingly new about Israel’s recent agreements with the Arab states is that they were less the result of Israel’s negotiations and more because of US contacts with them.
Previous administrations also tried to wrangle some normalization crumbs – such as overfly rights – from the Arab countries toward Israel in an effort to encourage a Mideast peace process, but never with much success. What the Trump administration did was demonstrate a willingness to ante up, something that has made all the difference, giving the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and, most recently, Morocco the tangible benefits they needed to be willing to openly walk arm-in-arm with Israel.