Following the recent announcement of the UAE-Israel deal to normalise their ties, speculations have been rife that other Arab countries will soon follow in the footsteps of the Emiratis. In fact, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is currently on a tour of the Middle East where he is meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and also stopping over in UAE, Sudan and Bahrain. In fact, Sudan and Bahrain have been billed by some commentators as the next Arab nations that will normalise ties with Israel. According to them, Morocco too is supposedly in line to recognise the Jewish state. However, this is far from the truth.

As I have explained at great length in my previous article, there are multiple factors behind some Arab countries moving to recognise Israel. In a nutshell, these factors involve the transformative socio-economic changes taking place in the Arab world. For many of the oil-rich Arab states, the days of petrodollar fuelled economic boom are over. This means they have to rewrite the entire social contract they had with their citizens, and move to invest in new economic sectors, put their own people to work, and make them pay taxes. Then there is the threat from radical Sunni extremism and the perceived – real or imaginary — threat from Iran. All these factors are interlinked and have created space for rapprochement between the Arab states and Israel.

In Sudan’s case, the desire for a deal with Israel is apparently driven by the former’s eagerness to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. But Morocco does not share any of these motivations, nor the desire to abandon the Palestinians. First, Morocco’s economy is not dependent on oil – its key resource is phosphates – and therefore it doesn’t face the socio-economic compulsions that oil-rich Arab states face today. Second, Morocco’s monarch King Mohammed VI is the chairman of the Al Quds Committee of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and in this capacity has supervised several welfare projects and humanitarian works for the Palestinian people, and aided the preservation of the holy city of Al Quds/ Jerusalem.

In fact, it will be recalled that in March 2019, King Mohammed and Pope Francis had signed the Al Quds Call that aims to promote the specific multi-faith character and special identity of Al Quds. This was in light of Israel trying to Judaise Al Quds/ Jerusalem and undermine the Islamic and Christian character of the city. Third, King Mohammed has clearly stated his position on the Israel-Palestine conflict on multiple occasions. He has been unequivocal in his support for the Two State Solution that sees independent, sovereign states of Israel and Palestine living side by side in concord. Plus, he has called for an end to Israel’s illegal settlement policy in Palestine territories.

This is the total opposite of what Israel and the US have been trying to do. After all, US President Donald Trump has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognised the city as the Israeli capital, stopped all American aid to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, cut aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, shut down the Palestinian Authority consulate in Washington and declared that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not illegal. It will also be recalled that when Pompeo had visited Morocco late last year, King Mohammed had vetoed his desire to bring along Netanyahu for the trip and include normalisation of ties between Israel and Morocco in the agenda of discussions. In fact, this saw King Mohammed not even meet Pompeo on that trip.

Therefore, to say that Morocco and Israel are absolutely on the same page is laughable. Besides, when Trump revealed his so-called Peace Plan for the Israel-Palestine conflict earlier this year, the Moroccan Parliament issued a statement stressing the firm, frank and responsible position of Morocco on the Palestinian cause. About 10,000 ordinary Moroccans even marched in Rabat in solidarity with the Palestinians to protest against Trump’s plan.

And finally, there is the issue of the Moroccan Sahara. Israel’s votaries have been claiming for some time that normalisation of ties between Rabat and Tel Aviv will cement US and international recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over this part of the Sahara. They even draw parallels between Israel’s claims over Palestinian territories and Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara. But this is total nonsense. The Sahara was Moroccan long before 19th century European colonial powers hived it off from Morocco proper. Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara is historical, legal and customary. Yet a Sahrawi separatist movement backed by Algeria has carried out an armed struggle to disturb and disrupt the Moroccan state. There can be no equivalence here with the Israel-Palestine issue where a Jewish state was created by driving out tens of thousands of original Arab residents of the area. The Sharawis in Morocco live with equal dignity and rights to that of other Moroccans, with the Moroccan government providing the southern Sahara provinces special treatment – there are no taxes in the Moroccan Sahara.

But the Palestinians continue to suffer under occupation, being reduced to a state of subsistence. They are denied their own land, their basic human and political rights have been taken away from them, and they are treated as second-class people by the Jewish state. To be sure, Morocco wants peace between Israel and Palestine. But that peace is based on the principles of equality and fairness, unlike the socio-economic and geopolitical compulsions of some Gulf Arab states. Therefore, it is important to not put all Arab states in the same bracket as far as rapprochement with Israel is concerned. Some might be in a hurry to get on with it, while others like Morocco continue to take a principled approach even as they advocate for peace between Israel and Palestine.