President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that Morocco would become the latest Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel in an apparent exchange for the U.S. recognizing its control over the contested Western Sahara territory it has long sought.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” Trump wrote in a tweet Thursday morning, followed immediately by another: “Morocco recognized the United States in 1777. It is thus fitting we recognize their sovereignty over the Western Sahara.”
“Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal is the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution for enduring peace and prosperity!” Trump wrote in a third post.
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The Moroccan government did not immediately issue a statement about the foreign policy shift for the North African nation. The Twitter account for its foreign ministry retweeted Trump’s posts.
A frequent partner with the U.S. on regional counterterrorism efforts, Morocco joins the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, which made similar pledges to normalize relations with Israel in recent weeks as a part of a set of agreements the Trump administration has dubbed the Abraham Accords and frequently touted as a signature foreign policy achievement.
But the deals have come under scrutiny for what the U.S. has given away in return, beginning with Palestinian hopes for a state of their own. Arab countries that had previously staked any relations with Israel on the future of Palestinians now appear to shrink from those commitments as regional fears grow over more pressing problems for which they must cooperate, chiefly an increasingly aggressive Iran. CNN reported last week that as a part of its deal the UAE will now help finance a project to “modernize” the Israeli checkpoints in the contested West Bank that help it control the movement of Palestinians.
And late yesterday, the Senate narrowly approved a massive arms deal the Trump administration arranged for the UAE to include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter – seen broadly as a quid pro quo for its recognition of Israel despite concerns about the Gulf nation’s human rights record. Many Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, opposed the measure because the White House has not yet specified precisely what weapons will be included.
“The Emiratis’ recent behavior in Yemen and Libya where U.S. weapons were misused and given to radical militias, on top of their active and growing defense relationships with China and Russia, should give everyone pause,” Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement in which he also applauded the Abraham Accords.
In the deal announced Thursday, the U.S. will recognize territory – also bordered by Algeria and Mauritania – that Morocco has sought since the withdrawal of Spain in 1976 from what it called Spanish Sahara. The subsequent decades were marked by guerilla warfare between Morocco and an independence movement there known as the Polisario Front. U.N. attempts to broker some form of negotiated peace have stalemated, and tensions have remained high between Moroccan immigrants and the native Sahrawi people, due to the prominent Morocccan military presence there.