The recognition comes almost three years after the signing of the Abraham Accords and marks another step in the rapprochement with Rabat, the most lukewarm of the new allies. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government confirms that it is working on the creation of a corridor for the transport of goods with Dubai, and that it would pass through Saudi Arabia.
Tel Aviv () – It is a fact that has been expected since the signing of the Abraham Accords. In December 2020 – precisely to push Rabat towards an understanding with Israel – the Trump administration had taken this step, getting rid of the pro-independence supporters of the Polisario Front. Yesterday, the Netanyahu government also officially recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Mauritania -inherited from Spanish colonial rule- that Rabat and the Saharawi populations have disputed for decades. It is a desert area inhabited by just over 500,000 people scattered over a territory of about 266,000 square kilometers (a surface somewhat smaller than that of Italy).
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs took it upon itself to announce that King Mohammed VI had received a letter from Benjamin Netanyahu stating that Israel recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara. The news was confirmed by the Israeli prime minister’s team. For its part, Rabat added that Israel is “positively studying” the opening of a consulate in Dakhla, the capital of the region.
With this measure, Israel aligns itself with the United States, distancing itself from the position of the United Nations, which considers the Polisario Front as the legitimate representative of the Saharawi people and recognizes their right to self-determination. 20% of the territory is under the control of the Polisario Front, whose government is in exile in Tindouf (Algeria). It is a recognized member of the African Union, while the Arab League supports Rabat’s land claims. An interesting detail: the flag of the Polisario Front is very similar to the Palestinian one, with the only addition of a crescent moon and a red star on the white band.
Netanyahu’s latest move can be read as an ace trying to revive relations: Morocco recently showed signs of being the most lukewarm among the “new allies” obtained as a dowry after the Abraham Accords. Despite repeated visits by Israeli diplomats – and even agreements on new military supplies – Rabat had not been soft in its criticism of the far-right government over the violence in Palestine. And he also refused to host the summit that last month was to bring together the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords (the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Israel and the United States) precisely because of the escalation of violence in the West Bank.
Thus, Netanyahu played the diplomatic card to relaunch the Abraham Accords – which meanwhile seem to be advancing on another front: that of relations with Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed at this time the start of work on the land corridor that, crossing Saudi territory, should allow land trade between Dubai and the Israeli ports in the Mediterranean. This is a project that Washington is putting a lot of emphasis on and one that would save companies considerable time compared to shipping lanes or even the current border crossing between Israel and Jordan.
Strictly speaking, the opening of the land corridor – on whose schedule no details have been given at the moment – would not require the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Israeli planes are already allowed to fly over Saudi airspace. However, carrying out a work of this type and the necessary security agreements for its management would imply not only a strong impulse but also a new qualitative leap in relations between the two countries.
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