Israel has drafted a proposal on behalf of Morocco to upgrade its status vis a vis the European Union (based on Yonatan Touval‘s original tweet). It’s highly unusual for one state to craft the foreign policy of another. But Israel seems ever-eager to promote the interests of its allies as long as they offer friends-with-benefits status to it.
In this case, way back when Saudi Arabia and Israel were pals, it crafted the Abraham Accords as a normalization vehicle for Arab states. Though the Saudis never joined, they apparently gave a green light to most of the countries which did: Bahrain, UAE, Morocco, and later, Sudan. The first two are close allies of Saudi Arabia and presumably joined at its behest. Both Sudan and Morocco only agreed to join after carrots were dangled in front of their eyes.
Sudan faced a multi-billion dollar judgment regarding the prior government’s sponsorship of Al Qaeda terror attacks. In return for joining, Trump offered a loan to pay off the fine. Another sweetener was Israel’s Mossad providing both arms, intelligence, and training to the Sudanese military. However, the agreement was so controversial among Sudanese, that its government has not yet formally recognized Israel.
Morocco too expected something in return for joining the accords. For decades it has engaged in a conflict with the Polisario Liberation Front, which seeks independence for Western Sahara. Morocco eyes a wealth of natural resources (phosphates in particular) there, as well as a nationalist claim to what it views as its own rightful territory. Most international bodies have rejected this position.
The US is the only nation which fully recognizes its claim. Pres. Trump did so as a quid pro quo for Morocco joining the Abraham Accords. Other states have expressed support for the Moroccan position without offering formal recognition. Far more states have offered formal recognition to the Front and its territorial rights.
One of those carrots Bibi Netanyahu dangled before King Mohammed VI’s eyes was Israeli recognition. In fact, today Israeli Knesset speaker (and Israeli-Moroccan) Amir Ohana visited the kingdom and declared his own recognition of its territorial claim and indicated Netanyahu would formally do so in the near future.
Context: #Israel is keen to see the #EU upgrade its relations with a country mired in a territorial dispute as a precedent that would serve its case with #Brussels despite its ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories. pic.twitter.com/wyxYxxlHvP
— Yonatan Touval (@Yonatan_Touval) June 8, 2023
But Israel is offering even more. For context, both Israel and Morocco are colonial occupiers whose claims are almost universally rejected by foreign governments (again with the unfortunate exception of the US). Both desperately seek legitimacy for their territorial claims and pursue it in various venues. Among them is the EU. Israel enjoys full status short of membership. It would be a much-needed feather in Netanyahu’s cap if he could bring home the gold: full membership.
Morocco enjoys ‘advanced status,’ which is short of Israel’s. The former would crave nothing more than either full membership or an upgrade from its current status. To that end, and because it is such an altruistic partner, Israel’s foreign ministry has crafted a proposal on Morocco’s behalf which would designate it as a “privileged partner.”
This is nothing less than the beginning of a “beautiful relationship” between two countries battling for recognition of their colonial claims. It’s a cynical relationship which stifles the legitimate national aspirations of two captive peoples.
Israel has enjoyed a unique relationship with Morocco going back to 1948. A month after the 1948 War began, there was an anti-Jewish riot which killed 44 people. The country’s 270,000 Jews began to contemplate emigration. Despite a plea from the king to remain, many did leave for Israel, France, the US and Canada. In 1965, the Mossad helped Moroccan security agents kidnap, the country’s opposition leader (then in exile), Mehdi Ben Barka, who was subsequently tortured and murdered. Israeli agents helped the Moroccans bury the body in a forest near Paris
With the cooperation of Moroccan intelligence, the Mossad bugged the conference and hotel rooms of the second Arab League meeting 1965. Israel then passed the recordings to the US, which was eager to know the plans and allegiances of Arab leaders regarding the Soviet Union, among other things.
In addition to Israel’s EU lobbying on Morocco’s behalf, it has offered advanced weapons systems (missile systems, drones, etc) and the world’s most advanced spyware, the NSO Group’s Pegasus. Moroccan intelligence services used it to hack the cell phone of France’s president, causing a major flare-up in relations between the two countries.
Israel’s transactional foreign policy
We should not be surprised at the cynicism at the heart of Israel’s foreign policy. It has virtually no moral compass. It never does anything for moral or altruistic reasons. It never considers justice in its policies. Instead, it views foreign relations as purely transactional. If you have something to offer of value, Israel will listen. If it’s valuable enough, it will make a deal. If not, you can take a hike. It will drop trusted allies who cease to be useful like a hot potato (South Lebanon Army, Kurds, etc.). Below are examples of such relationships.
In the 1950s, Israel cultivated “non-aligned nations” with an approach called the “periphery doctrine“:
The strategy sought to develop and maintain relations with non-Arab and non-Muslim countries and minorities in the Middle East, as a means of fortifying Israel from adversarial Arab nationalist elements [i.e. Nasser].
The policy was the brainchild of the Mossad. Among other things, it offered foreign assistance to African countries. The Israelis who offered agricultural technology and training were often Mossad assets seeking intelligence that would be useful in the Cold War struggles between the US and Russia. In at least one case, an Israeli journalist ostensibly traveled to report from several African countries. But his trip was made on behalf of the Mossad.
Bulgaria: buying UN votes
In 2011, Netanyahu traveled to Bulgaria on a barnstorming trip to round up No votes against a UN resolution to recognize the State of Palestine. As I wrote then:
Bibi needed something from them: their vote against Palestinian statehood come September. But what could he give in return?…Of course! Israel can increase the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian temporary workers it admits thus solving a double-edge problem: Israel gets cheap Eastern European labor; Bulgarian and Romanian workers earn a far better wage than they might find at home. Not that they’ll be treated all that well as Israel is notorious for its abuse of foreign labor. But most importantly Israel has bought two cheap votes come September.
Ukraine: Kidnapping a Palestinian in return for trade and visa deals
In Ukraine, its security service assisted in the kidnapping of Gaza civil engineer, Dirar Abusisi, who Israel falsely charged with being a Hamas “rocket engineer.” In return, Ukraine’s then-president made a state visit to Israel and signed a trade deal. This followed an agreement to waive visa requirements for travelers to both countries. But even more important was an agreement for “security cooperation” between the two nations. Yossi Melman wrote in Haaretz:
Israel and Ukraine Strengthen Mutual Collaboration
…In the context of such collaboration, there have been contacts between the security forces of each country and exchange of security information between them.
Within the framework of Ukraine’s pro-western approach…Ukraine collaborated with the CIA in the international war against terror, even permitting CIA personnel to work on its territory under the rubric of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. This was part of a wider program under which the U.S. asked countries in western and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and southeast Asia to detain those suspected of involvement with terror networks within their own territory and imprison them in secret detention facilities called “black holes…Ukraine played a role in the detention, imprisonment and transfers that happened under this program.
I added this comment:
There appears to be at least a strong hint on Melman’s part that Abu Sisi’s kidnapping was a similar act of extraordinary rendition in which the Ukrainian security services collaborated by first detaining and then holding Abu Sisi, later handing him over to Israeli agents who whisked him to Israel, in precisely the fashion described in Melman’s article.
Finally, the problem with transactional alliances between nations is that once there is no longer any mutual interest, they dissolve. Sometimes leaving both parties worse off than they were before their alliance. In other words, they tend to be weak structures which easily fall apart. This will undoubtedly be the ultimate fate of the Abraham Accords, which already have been considerably weakened by the Saudi pivot toward Iran.
My bet is that the EU will see through Israel’s strategem. It’s doubtful its member states will welcome to its ranks a country mired in racism, Occupation, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. No matter how many Arab allies it has.