Show an ad over header. AMP

Morocco to normalize ties with Israel in deal with Trump over Western Sahara

Morocco has agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, President Trump announced on Thursday. The Moroccan decision comes as part of a deal that includes U.S. recognition of the disputed territory of Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

Why it matters: Morocco is the fourth Arab country to move toward normalization with Israel in the last four months as part of the Trump administration's "Abraham Accords" initiative. But the deal also involves a change in longstanding U.S. policy with just six weeks left in Trump's term.


Behind the scenes: The negotiations around this deal started two years ago but intensified in the last few months. Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Avi Berkowitz negotiated directly with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

  • The Israeli government encouraged the White House several times in the last three years to pursue this track, but the talks over the last few months involved only the U.S. and Morocco.
  • The White House briefed the Israeli government in recent weeks about a possible breakthrough.

The other side: While the normalization deal is a breakthrough for Israeland a significant achievement for Trump, recognition of Western Sahara as part of Morocco is a big shift in U.S. policy — and a major diplomatic achievement for Morocco.

  • Western Sahara is a sparsely populated, disputed territory that borders Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa.
  • It was formerly controlled by Spain and is now claimed by Morocco despite international opposition and fierce resistance from the indigenous population.
  • State of play: A violent insurgency ended in 1991 after 16 years, but the matter remains unresolved. Several weeks ago, fighting erupted again between the Moroccan army and Sahrawi rebels.

What’s next: The U.S. is now the only Western country to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. President-elect Biden will have to decide whether to reverse Trump's decision after taking office in January.

  • Such a move would not be easy for Biden to make, because it could cause the Morocco-Israeli normalization process to collapse.

Flashback: Israel and Morocco have had a secret relationship dating back to the 1960’s through their respective intelligence services.

  • In the late 1970’s, Morocco mediated between Israel and Egypt to help them move towards the historic peace deal.
  • In the 1990’s, after the Oslo Accords, Israel and Morocco established diplomatic relations and opened diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and Rabat.
  • In 1994, Israeli prime minister Itzhak Rabin and foreign minister Shimon Peres visited Morocco as the guests of the late King Hassan II.
  • But in 2000, after the second Intifada, Morocco cut off relations with Israel and both countries shut down their diplomatic offices.

In the 20 years since, then have been several secret meetings between Israeli officials and Moroccan foreign ministers.

  • In September 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Bourita, the Moroccan foreign minister, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Go deeper:

Capitol review panel recommends boosting security with more police, mobile fencing

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Keep reading... Show less

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

Keep reading... Show less

Chamber of Commerce decides against widespread political ban following Capitol insurrection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern

The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The fact the country's premier health advisory agency is permitting a change in COVID-19 protocols indicates the scale of the immigration crisis. A draft memo obtained by Axios conceded "facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases."

Keep reading... Show less

8 Senate Democrats vote against adding $15 minimum wage amendment to COVID relief

Eight Democratic senators on Friday voted against Sen. Bernie Sanders' amendment to ignore a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian and add a $15 minimum wage provision to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

The state of play: The vote was held open for hours on Friday afternoon — even after every senator had voted — due to a standoff in negotiations over the next amendments that the Senate is set to take up.

Keep reading... Show less

CDC: Easing mask mandates, re-opening restaurants led to higher COVID cases, deaths

Easing mask restrictions and on-site dining have increased COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to a study out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The report's findings converge with actions from governors this week easing mask mandates and announcing plans to reopen nonessential businesses like restaurants.

Keep reading... Show less

Exclusive: GOP Leader McCarthy asks to meet with Biden about the border

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has requested a meeting with President Biden to discuss the rising numbers of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, in a letter sent on Friday.

Why it matters: Biden is facing criticism from the right and the left as agency actions and media reports reveal spiking numbers of migrant children overwhelming parts of the U.S. immigration system. Recent data shows an average of 321 kids being referred to migrant shelters each day, as Axios reported.

Keep reading... Show less

Public desire for vaccine increases to 69%, but with partisan divide

69% of the public intends to get a COVID vaccine or already has, up significantly from 60% in November, according to a report out Friday from the Pew Research Center.

Yes, but: The issue has become even more partisan, with 56% of Republicans who say they want or have already received a coronavirus vaccine compared to 83% of Democrats.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories