The Jerusalem Post

Israeli airlines ready for direct flights to Morocco

Foreign Ministry D-G Ushpiz travels to Rabat to discuss bilateral issues

- • By TOVAH LAZAROFF Reuters contribute­d to this report

El Al and Israir are preparing to launch direct flights to Morocco as early as July 25, as Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz is in Rabat this week to discuss bilateral issues including air travel.

“The flights operated by Israeli and Moroccan airlines will significan­tly promote tourism and business traffic between the countries,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Morocco is one of four Arab countries, together with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, to normalize ties with Israel under the Abraham Accords brokered by former US president Donald Trump.

The pace of normalizat­ion has been more advanced with the UAE and Bahrain, less so with Morocco and Sudan.

Israel just opened its embassy in Abu Dhabi, which similarly has an embassy in Tel Aviv.

Bahrain formally appointed its ambassador to Israel, Khaled Yousef al-Jalahma, but a date for his arrival in the country has not yet been set. On Tuesday he was received by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Neither Israel nor Morocco have opened embassies or appointed ambassador­s, although each one has a diplomatic mission in the other’s country.

Ushpiz traveled to Morocco in the aftermath of a phone conversati­on between Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Moroccan counterpar­t, Nasser Bourita. The director-general is expected to hold talks with his Moroccan counterpar­t and with other top officials in Rabat to discuss ways to advance and strengthen diplomatic ties, the Foreign Ministry said.

The issue of direct flights is already on the agenda. An agreement for such flights has already been signed but details have yet to be finalized. Flights are expected to be launched shortly, but despite the airlines’ schedule, no absolute flight dates have been set.

Morocco was home to one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communitie­s in North Africa and the Middle East for centuries until Israel’s founding in 1948. As Jews fled or were expelled from many Arab countries, an estimated quarter of a million left Morocco for Israel from 1948-1964.

Only about 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco, while hundreds of thousands of Israelis claim some Moroccan ancestry.

Israel and Morocco had a long history of secret ties, followed by low-level ties from 1994-2000. Diplomatic ties were reestablis­hed and advanced last year.

In March, Moroccan Tourism Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui said she expects 200,000 Israeli visitors in the first year following the resumption of direct flights. That compares with about 13 million yearly total foreign tourists before the pandemic. Tourism revenue fell by 53.8% to $3.8 billion in 2020.

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