Morocco’s main Islamist groups rejected the government’s plan to normalise ties with Israel, following a deal brokered by the United States.
The religious branch of the co-ruling PJD party, the Unity and Reform Movement (MUR), said in a statement on Saturday the move was “deplorable” and denounced “all attempts at normalisation and the Zionist infiltration”.
The Islamist PJD party was more nuanced, endorsing King Mohammed VI’s actions support for the Palestinian cause while reiterating the party’s “firm position against the Zionist occupation”.
Unlike its government coalition partners who backed the deal, it took the PJD two days to react after disagreements emerged between the party’s senior leadership, according to a source close to the matter.
Morocco this week became the fourth Arab nation since August to announce a US-brokered deal to normalise relations with Israel, following the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
A core element of the deal brokered by Donald Trump was US recognition of Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara. A decades-old territorial dispute has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which seeks to establish an independent state.
“The United States made an important proclamation that stresses Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces and opens new horizons for strengthening Morocco’s position in international circles. It also further isolates the adversaries of our territorial integrity,” the Islamist party said in a statement.
King Mohammed VI has the last say over major diplomatic decisions.
On Friday, Morocco’s outlawed Adl Wal Ihssane, one of the largest opposition groups in the country, said normalisation deals a “stab from the back to the Palestinian cause”.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said liaison offices would be reopened in Tel Aviv and Rabat, which Morocco closed in 2000 at the start of the second Palestinian uprising, and full diplomatic relations would be established “as rapidly as possible”.
Jewish history and culture in Morocco will also soon be part of the school curriculum – a “first” in the region and in the North African country, where Islam is the state religion.
The decision “has the impact of a tsunami,” said Serge Berdugo, secretary-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Morocco.
It “is a first in the Arab world”, he said from Casablanca.
The decision to add Jewish history and culture to lessons was discreetly launched before the diplomatic deal was announced.
Morocco’s Jewish community has been present since antiquity and grew over the centuries, particularly with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic kings after 1492.
At the end of the 1940s, Jewish Moroccans numbered about 250,000 – some 10 percent of the population.
Many left after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and the community now numbers around 3,000, still the largest in North Africa.