The normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco comes as no surprise to observers of events in the Maghreb and the Middle east.
Donald Trump’s claim to have brokered the deal is made all the more ridiculous by the well-know reality that Tel Aviv and Rabat have secretive military relations dating back decades – to the time they were both in league with the apartheid regime.
In those Cold War days Morocco was being armed by Pretoria and Israel cooperated with apartheid South Africa in developing a nuclear weapon.
Both countries justifiably feel deep shame about this now and speak of it either with reluctance or try to deny it.
The surprise in yesterday’s announcement by President Trump is his recognizing what he calls Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
This amounts to him flying in the face on international condemnation of Morocco’s 1995 invasion of the former Spanish territory and its illegal occupation of it since then.
Britain, America’s permanent Western partner on the United Nations Security Council, who joined in scolding Morocco 45 year ago, hastened today to stress that its position on Western Sahara has not changed.
It is holding Morocco to its promise to hold a referendum on self-governance for the territory.
That was a condition of the 1991 ceasefire ending Morocco’s 16 year war with Polisario, the Western Sahara liberation movement.
The African Union also hastened to emphasize that Western Sahara is a founder member of the continental grouping having been admitted to its predecessor the Organization of African Unity.
Morocco stormed out of the OAU when this happened and shunned Africa until it recently joined the AU as a fellow member with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.
King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s absolute ruler, has clearly opted once again to turn his country’s back on Africa to take up with Israel and the lame duck Trump administration in the United States.
It remains to be seen whether President Joe Biden will persist with the maverick position on Morocco which is at odds with international opinion.
The ruling African national Congress in South Africa which currently occupies the chair of the African Union says: “It is regrettable that outgoing President Trump in his last days in office tries to cement his legacy of reactionary foreign policies, that does not contribute to peaceful resolutions of conflict in the world, but in fact fuels hatred and conflict.”
It “calls on all international and progressive forces on the continent and in the world to condemn this deal and continue to work for the implementation of UN and AU resolutions.”