FM Lapid Wings to Morocco to Cement Ties

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Mohammed VI bridge, which spans the valley of the Bouregreg River near Rabat, the longest suspended bridge in Africa. (Ministry of Equipment and Transport of Morocco)

Israel’s foreign minister will fly to Morocco on Wednesday for a visit that will help cement ties between the two countries less than a year after they signed a deal to normalize relations.

Yair Lapid will head a delegation of lawmakers and officials who will meet with Moroccan officials and inaugurate the Israeli Liaison Office in the capital, Rabat, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The visit will be the first by an Israeli minister since the signing of the “Abraham Accords,” the U.S.-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab states: Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

It’s the first visit to Morocco by an Israeli minister since 2003 and Lapid is scheduled to meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita.

Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. The two countries maintained informal ties, with thousands of Israelis traveling to Morocco each year.

Globes noted on Tuesday that normalization with Morocco has lagged behind the UAE and Bahrain.

Steve O’Hana, a businessman and industrialist and President of the Morocco-Israel Business council, was quoted as saying that the biggest obstacles to trade are in the areas of taxation and banking.

An agreement to prevent double taxation is needed, as well as measures to facilitate the transfer of business information, banking between the countries and direct money transfers, he said.

But there has been progress. According to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Israel’s exports to Morocco in the first half of 2021 amounted to $13.2 million, compared with $8.1 million in the first half of 2020.

In 2020, exports totaled $12.4 million, compared with $3.9 million in 2019. Imports of goods from Morocco amounted to $6 million in the first half of 2021, similar to $5.9 million in the first half of 2020. Total imports of good from Morocco in 2020 was $10.2 million, up from $9.8 million in 2019. These figures do not include services such as tourism.

With reporting by the Associated Press.