Netanyahu seeks to visit King VI in Morocco

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to arrange a state visit to Morocco just before Israelis go to the polls in April 9 elections, according to a report in a Moroccan media outlet.

The French-language website Le Desk reported on Tuesday that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat is working, with US support, to arrange a meeting between Netanyahu and King Mohammed VI in Morocco.

The visit would take place around March 30, right after a visit to the African country by Pope Francis, according to Israel’s Hadashot TV news.

According to Le Desk, Mohammed VI may see developing closer ties with Israel as an inroad with the Trump administration as Morocco courts US support for its claims to Western Sahara, which most of the world views as an occupied territory.

Neither the Moroccan government nor the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office would confirm the report on Thursday.

Israel and Morocco do not have official diplomatic ties. In 2017, Mohammed VI canceled participation in a West African summit to avoid Netanyahu.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco at the Moroccan Ambassador to the United States’ residence in Washington, DC, on November 20, 2013. (US State Department)

“Israel doesn’t respond to reports on contacts with states with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations,” the PMO told Hadashot.

Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign and defense minister, has made diplomatic outreach to Africa, Latin America and the Far East a cornerstone of his foreign policy and has pushed for more open ties with moderate Arab states. In October, he made a rare trip to Oman.

He is also thought to be seeking high-profile visits showcasing his diplomatic achievements ahead of the April 9 elections.

A view of a street in Rabat, Morocco. (CC-BY SA Nawalbennani/Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, Israeli officials indicated Jerusalem was preparing for a “historic” visit by Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, likely before elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by Chadian President Deby at the presidential palace in N’Djamena, January 20, 2019. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

The move came a day after Netanyahu cemented the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Chad during the first-ever visit of an Israeli premier to the Muslim-majority African country.

Chad severed ties with Israel in 1972, due to pressure from Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

Appearing alongside Chad’s President Idriss Déby at the N’Djamena presidential palace on Sunday, Netanyahu called the move “a breakthrough into the heart of the Muslim world.”

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