image Photo: Reuters

US delegation to visit Israel, Morocco

A delegation from the United States is set to visit Israel and Morocco next week for discussions on the Washington-brokered normalization deal the two Middle East countries reached last week.

According to an official from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner will heading the team. The president’s son-in-law will be accompanied by Middle East Envoy Avi Berkowitz and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Adam Boehler.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to hold talks with the U.S. envoys in Jerusalem on Monday. The following day, the American delegation and an Israeli team led by National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat will travel together on a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Rabat aboard Israel’s national El Al airline.

The Israel-Morocco agreement was the fourth the United States helped establish since August, following similar pacts between Israel with the  United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Sudan .

250,000 Jews from Morocco immigrated to Israel, representing the largest number from any Muslim country.

“I am so proud that our grandfathers and grandmothers can visit Morocco while still alive. This is peace,” said , Israeli Minister of Transportation Miri Regev, the descendant of Moroccan Jewish immigrants, when asked about the recent normalization of ties in an interview on Army Radio.

It is interesting to note that Kushner, who helped to secure the Israel-Morocco deal, is still holding talks with other countries from the Arab and Muslim world in hope of sealing at least one more historic pact before Trump leaves office on 20 January when President-elect Joe Biden will take the presidential oath of office.

In exchange for Morocco’s normalizing ties with Israel, Trump agreed to recognize the Western Sahara as part of the kingdom despite its decades-old territorial dispute over sovereignty with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft sent a copy of Trump’s proclamation recognizing “that the entire Western Sahara territory is part of the Kingdom of Morocco” to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council on Tuesday.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is planning to discuss Western Sahara dispute on Monday in a closed-door meeting requested by Germany, following the departure from longstanding U.S. policy. So far, UN attempts to negotiate an agreement on the matter have so far been unsuccessful. While Morocco insists on an autonomy plan under its sovereignty, the Polisario wants a UN-backed referendum on independence.

The US had previously supported a 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario, which is monitored by UN peacekeepers. The region has effectively been split by an earthen wall and a UN-mandated buffer zone separating an area controlled by Morocco that it claims as its southern provinces from territory controlled by the Polisario.

In October, the 15-member Security Council voted to extend the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for a one year, adopting a resolution that “emphasizes the need to achieve a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise.”

Guterres maintains that the UN’s “position remains unchanged,” said the world body’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric last week, adding, that he “remains convinced that a solution to the question of Western Sahara is possible in accordance with UNSC resolutions.