Algeria pushed for Morocco-Israel normalisation: ex-minister

In August 2021, Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco over alleged “hostile actions”, accusations Rabat has dismissed as “absurd”. [Getty]

Morocco’s former Justice Minister, Mustapha Ramid, says Algeria‘s hostility towards Rabat played a key role in pushing his country to sign the normalisation deal with Israel.

In a speech at the Ahmed Raissouni Forum conference — an Islamist gathering — Ramid, who was Morocco’s Justice minister between 2012 and 2017, argued that the specific constraints of each country can drive normalisation efforts.

“For Morocco, this mainly concerns the Moroccan Sahara issue (…) Western powers often exploit internal crises in countries to exert additional pressure,” he added on Saturday 25 May during the same panel.

Ramid, a member of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), also referenced the ideas of Sheikh Mehdi Shamseddine on the “constraints of leaders and the choices of peoples.”

“While governments might feel compelled to normalise relations, people have the right to reject such normalisation,” added the former official.

The former minister’s statements came in defence of his party’s role in the normalisation deal — a role that cost the PJD its majority and its once-wide popularity in the country.

Late in 2020, Rabat normalised ties with Tel Aviv under the leadership of Saad Eddine El-Othmani, who was prime minister and head of the PJD at the time.

El-Othmani’s move to sign the normalisation divided the party and further angered PJD’s supporters after a decade of economic and political chaos, leading to their significant loss during the September 2021 elections.

Later on, El-Othmani claimed he was under pressure and that his long-standing anti-normalisation position had never changed.

After losing the elections, the party re-elected its former controversial leader, Abdelilah Benkirane, as the new secretary-general. Benkirane has since admitted that “normalisation was a mistake.”

Morocco’s normalisation deal with Israel has also led to severing ties with Algeria, Rabat’s long-standing frenemy.

In August 2021, Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco over alleged “hostile actions”, accusations Rabat has dismissed as “absurd”.

Algiers has been at odds with Rabat for decades, particularly over the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony Morocco sees as an integral part of its territory, but where Algiers has long supported the separatist movement of Polisario.

Late in 2020, the Morocco-Algeria rivalry took a new turn when the US recognised Rabat’s sovereignty over the territory in exchange for Morocco normalising ties with Tel Aviv.

For Algeria, that amounted to Rabat “introducing a foreign military force into the Maghreb”, in the words of the Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

Although Israel’s war on Gaza may have slowed the pace of normalisation with Tel Aviv, analysts predict that Morocco is unlikely to sever ties with Israel.

In March, Rabat reaffirmed its ongoing normalisation with Israel, arguing its benefits for the Palestinian people, such as securing aid.

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