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Israel lobbied US to recognise Moroccan control of Western Sahara: Report

Netanyahu is reported to have pushed the deal several times, which Israeli officials claimed would have benefited all sides
Morrocco’s King Mohammed VI could gain achievement of US recognising his sovereignty over Western Sahara (MEE/Abed Charef)

Israel is reported to have lobbied the United States to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region in exchange for Rabat taking steps to normalise ties with Israel, Channel 13 reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to push the deal several times in the past year after initiating talks with Moroccan and American officials following his speech at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2018.

After his speech in New York, Netanyahu is reported to have secretly met with Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to discuss the proposal.

Yariv Elbaz, a Moroccan-Jewish businessman, was reportedly responsible for organising the meeting, Channel 13 said.

Elbaz, a food tycoon, is reported to be close to US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whom he met in May 2019 when Kushner visited Casablanca.

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Israeli officials told Channel 13 that Netanyahu's proposal was a win-win for all parties, with Israel adding another country to its list of countries it was normalising ties with. Morrocco's King Mohammed VI would see the US recognise Rabat's sovereignty over the Western Sahara region and Trump would be seen as championing Arab-Israel ties.

Channel 13 reported that while Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, was strongly opposed to the deal following his departure in September, Netanyahu reportedly raised the matter again with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But the White House had not agreed to the trade-off.

The Israeli government has not confirmed reports about Netanyahu's tripartite deal. In December, King Mohammed VI refused a visit from Netanyahu to Rabat.

An Israeli official told Channel 13 that the Moroccans were unhappy with the pace of Netanyahu's promises and the results so far, along with his touting of clandestine relations with Rabat for his own political purposes.

No options left

The Western Sahara region has been the subject of one of the world's longest-running conflicts, with several regional nations playing a role in the hostilities.

Spain relinquished control of the territory in 1975 and Morocco and Mauritania then stepped in and claimed the territory as their own.  

History of the Green March
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Mauritania withdrew its claim to the territory in 1984 and proceeded to recognise the region as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Morocco, which controls roughly 90 percent of the territory - including its three main towns - has insisted that it is an integral part of the kingdom.

Morocco has offered autonomy to the Western Sahara, but the Algerian-backed Polisario Front - which waged a low-intensity guerrilla war until a ceasefire in 1991 - rejects this and wants a referendum with independence for Western Sahara as one of the options.

On Sunday, a senior Polisario Front official in Algeria said that they had been left with no options "except escalation, and using all means for self-determination, including armed action in the case of failure of all political solutions."

Middle East Eye contacted the Polisario Front for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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