Total opposite. Monday, November 28, Moroccan justice sentenced an internet user, Saïd Boukioud, on appeal to three years in prison for insulting the king, after publication on Facebook of a criticism dating from 2020 on the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel. But the day before, in Casablanca, Moroccans were still demonstrating by tens of thousands in solidarity with the Palestinian people, demanding the suspension of the rapprochement made three years ago between the two countries. Last October in Rabat, there were hundreds of thousands demanding an end to all links with Tel Aviv.
Caught up in the conflict
Since the outbreak of war on October 7, Sherifian diplomacy, in the midst of a dilemma, took ten days before pointing the finger at Israel, and “strongly condemning” the bombing of the Al-Maamadani hospital in the Gaza Strip. Then, she waited until November 11 to denounce “Israel’s persistence in its blatant aggression against unarmed civilians.” Without ever condemning the Hamas attack.
The King of Morocco Mohammed VI was to regain control of this burning issue by traveling last Saturday to Qatar, the main negotiator of the truce between Israel and Hamas. But he ultimately postponed his visit, without justification. The situation is uncomfortable for the sovereign whose silence, since October 7, has fueled sharp comments from neighboring Algeria.
Mohammed VI had agreed to join the Abraham Accords at the instigation of Donald Trump, in exchange for recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Already in popular protest at the time. According to a 2022 poll commissioned by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, 67% of Moroccans opposed their government’s recognition of Israel, while only 20% approved. A position that has since been exacerbated by the Israel-Hamas conflict. And which seriously compromises an arms contract for the purchase by Morocco of 200 Israeli Merkava MK3 tanks.
Problem: the country faces the imperative to modernize its armored forces, and the delivery of American tanks has fallen behind schedule, due to the war in Ukraine. This is not the only area of cooperation that is going off the rails. Air lines have been suspended between the Hebrew state and the Sharifian kingdom, despite the presence of 3,000 Jews in Morocco and 700,000 Israelis of Moroccan origin in Israel. Israeli investors have left, calling into question exchanges in the agricultural field, or in that of new technologies. The Israeli liaison office in Rabat was evacuated for security reasons.
Former Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane (2011-2017), of the Justice and Development Party (PJD, right-wing Islamist ideology), added political pressure on Sunday, November 19 in Rabat, by repeating comments openly pro-Hamas and anti-Semites. “They had scientists like Einstein, but they don’t see far. This is why God favored them in the beginning, and cursed them 2,000 years ago. Because in reality, they are idiots. Their idiocy makes them believe that it is force that solves the problem,” he declared in front of activists and the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Morocco. A slippage that could no longer be controlled by the leader of the PJD, who thus hopes to reconnect with his base, which does not forgive him for having given the green light to normalization with Israel in 2020.