For the first time in more than two decades, an Israeli foreign minister is visiting Morocco.

In Rabat, the Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita welcomed the guest from Israel.

The Israeli government spoke of a "historic" visit.

Jair Lapid himself wrote on Twitter after landing in Rabat that he was “proud to represent Israel on this historic visit”.

Both states agreed last December to normalize their diplomatic relations.

That was not only met with approval in Morocco.

Prime Minister Saadeddine al Othmani, who belongs to the ruling moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), did not want to meet with Lapid.

In all important political questions in Morocco, however, King Mohammed VI.

The last word.

Jochen Stahnke

Political correspondent for Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan based in Tel Aviv.

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Hans-Christian Roessler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb, based in Madrid.

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Morocco had downgraded its relations with Israel in the wake of the second Palestinian intifada.

The then Foreign Minister Silvan Schalom was last in Rabat in 2003.

At the end of last year, both sides normalized their relations in a joint agreement with the United States.

In return, the then President Donald Trump had recognized the Moroccan claims to the annexed Western Sahara.

Continuation of normalization

Morocco had since hoped in vain that other western states would follow Trump's example. Instead, however, the unresolved conflict over Western Sahara plunged relations, especially with Germany and Spain, into a serious crisis. President Joe Biden has not yet corrected his predecessor's policy.

Jair Lapid has pursued an active and visible foreign policy since taking office in June.

After an early revival of ties with Jordan and a trip to Brussels, the Israeli government is trying to continue the normalization that began under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan had already decided to take this step.

Lapid opened an embassy in Abu Dhabi, and he was due to inaugurate a so-called liaison office in Rabat this Thursday.

Scheduled flights to Morocco

On Thursday, Lapid also wanted to meet the local Jewish community in Casablanca. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have Moroccan roots. After the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, tens of thousands of Jews had left Morocco, were expelled or forced to leave. The minister Meir Cohen, who was traveling with Lapid, was born in Essaouira. At the end of July, the airlines Israir and El Al started scheduled flights to Morocco. One seems to be hoping for a larger number of passengers, as there are several flights a week.

Lapid wants to attend an economic conference in Casablanca. There could also be cybersecurity issues. In July, both states signed a cyber treaty, in which the Israeli Defense Ministry was also involved. At the same time, human rights activists and an international research collective had raised new allegations against the Israeli company NSO, which were taken very seriously, especially in Paris: Moroccan agencies are said to have tried to use the Pegasus spy software, which NSO has sold to numerous regimes, to attempt to use the French’s mobile phones Infiltrate President Emmanuel Macron and several French ministers. Morocco rejects these allegations and has filed initial injunctions on the basis of untrue allegations of fact.

The Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz had promised during a visit to Paris at the end of July that he would investigate the allegations of espionage with the Pegasus software from NSO.

According to a report by the Israeli business paper Globes, the new Moroccan-Israeli agreement has nothing to do with this field of activity.

NSO is one of a number of Israeli companies that sell offensive cyber software that is classified as a weapon by the Israel Foreign Ministry.

According to Globes, Quadream is in negotiations with the Moroccan authorities.

The company develops its products, which are comparable to those of NSO, in Ramat Gan, Israel, but sells them through the Cyprus-based parent company, which is not necessarily bound by Israeli arms export regulations.