Israel national flag carrier El Al is expected to operate its first flight between the Jewish state and the Kingdom of Morocco on Tuesday. The move follows a warming of relations between the two counties and is on the heels of peace agreements signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
According to news wire service Reuters, the flight from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion (TLV) Airport to Rabat-Sale Airport (RBA) will be carrying a joint US-Israeli delegation whose purpose is to try and normalize ties between Israel and Morocco.
No official documents have been signed
On December 10, King Mohammed VI announced his country’s desire to reopen liaison offices in Israel that were operational from 1994 until 2000 when the Second Intifada started. He also said that cooperation in trade would be beneficial for both nations, as would the ability to have direct flights.
Despite the announcements, neither side has yet signed any documents acknowledging their new friendship. Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and White House special adviser Jared Kushner are traveling to Rabat to formalize the agreement with the signing of papers. When speaking to the Jerusalem Post, US special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz said:
“It’s our intention to sign numerous Memoranda of Understandings that will help bring these normalization agreements to life and bring substantive improvements to the lives of people both in Israel and in Morocco.”
“On Tuesday, we will take a direct flight to Morocco and bring with us an Israeli delegation, which will further increase the relationship between the two countries,” Berkowitz added.
Interestingly, Morocco’s warming of relations with Israel came after President Trump decided to recognize Morocco’s claim over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara. For the past 30 years, there has been an uneasy status quo over the region, which is contested by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.
El Al is decorating the plane
In honor of the occasion, El Al said that flight number LY555 would be decorated with a Hamsa, an ancient Middle Eastern symbol that holds various meanings across cultures. All faiths regard the Hamsa as a protective talisman that brings good fortune. Along with the ancient symbol will be the flags of Israel, Morocco, and the United States, together with the word “Peace” written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
Israil is also interested in flying to Morocco
Israeli low-cost-carrier Israir has also expressed an interest in starting direct flights between Isreal and Morocco, believing that they will be hugely popular with Israeli tourists. Since ancient times Morocco has been home to the largest Jewish community in North Africa. Following the Reconquista and Spanish Inquisition, thousands of Jews fled to Morocco. At one point, Jews made up 10% of Morocco’s population in the early 1940s until the Jewish state’s creation in 1948. Casablanca still has a strong Jewish community, while Israel is home to more than 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.
Since normalizing relations with the UAE, flights between Israel and Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been hugely popular, as will direct flights between Israel and Morocco.
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