Tourists and trade delegations are piling into Morocco

The Arab-Israeli conflict seems like ancient history now that Israel and Morocco have signed the Abraham Accords. The Economist reports that Israeli firms  are piling in to Morocco and 200,000 Israeli tourists are expected this year. However, King Mohammed suspended plans to open an embassy in Tel Aviv and has yet to accredit Israel’s ambassador. Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara remains a stumbling block, Joe Biden having backed away from full recognition, the carrot offered to Morocco in return for normalisation with Israel. (With thanks: Tom)

The Chellah, Rabat :hosting five-course dinners with Israeli wines

In a railway carriage heading towards Marrakech four Moroccan women, all strangers to each other, talk about Israel. “They’re so much more welcoming than the racist, superior French,” says a Moroccan tour guide, recounting her experiences of passport control. An events organiser shares videos of her raves for Israelis in a farm outside Marrakech. A nurse uses the French word for Jerusalem, not the Islamic al-Quds, though all the women are speaking Arabic. “Israel has always protected us,” she says, then has a dig at the Palestinians.

“The king gave Yasser Arafat everything and he just betrayed us by siding with Algeria over Western Sahara,” referring to the Palestinians’ longtime leader and Morocco’s dispute over a sandy territory that it occupies. All four applaud the peace deal Israel signed with Morocco a year and a half ago.

For decades Israel was Morocco’s shadowy secret. Business between the two went through networks of intermediaries, often Jewish-Moroccan exiles in Paris and intelligence agents. Syrian tanks captured by Israel ended up in Morocco. Israelis helped fortify the wall that Morocco built to keep guerrillas out of Western Sahara.

Now that the secret friendship has become official, the couple are getting to know each other. They have signed a plethora of military, business and cultural deals, often with loud hurrahs. The Arab-Israeli conflict seems like ancient history.

Israel’s satellite channel, i24, is opening bureaus in Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco’s commercial and political capitals. The gala i24 staged on May 30th had a grander guest list than most Western embassies could hope to muster on their national days. Huge Stars of David flashed on a stage in the heart of the Chellah, Rabat’s crenellated medieval fortress, candle-lit for the occasion. Wine from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights lubricated a sumptuous five-course meal.

Israeli tourists, meanwhile, are flocking in. Morocco expects 200,000 this year, up fourfold since the accord, with ten direct flights a week. Some Israelis come to party, others to visit the shrines of what Morocco says are some 600 Jewish saints, or to rediscover family roots, since some 700,000 Israelis are of Moroccan origin.

Well-organised trade delegations are piling in, too. Officially, trade at last count was worth a modest $131m a year.

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