Morocco and Bhutan: The 4th and 5th countries to announce full relations with Israel in five months

December 13, 2020 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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Israel celebrated another two significant diplomatic achievements over the weekend when the Kingdoms of Morocco and Bhutan became the fourth and fifth countries to announce the full normalization of relations with the Jewish state in just five months, as more countries are expected to come.

Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka (R) the Ambassador of Bhutan to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel. (MFA)

Morocco announced on Thursday evening that it was reestablishing full relations with Israel.

Under the agreement, Morocco will renew official relations with Israel, allow Israeli aircraft to pass through Moroccan airspace, and allow direct flights between Israel and Morocco.

Morocco and Israel will open diplomatic offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat and later open official embassies. Under the agreement, Morocco and Israel will promote economic relations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he has “always believed that this historic day would come, I’ve always worked for it.”

He thanked President Donald Trump for “his extraordinary efforts to expand peace, to bring peace to Israel and the peoples of the Middle East.”

“We’ll resume liaison offices quickly between Israel and Morocco and work as rapidly as possible to establish full diplomatic relations. This will be a very warm peace. Peace has never – the light of peace on this Hanukkah day has never – shone brighter than today in the Middle East,” he stated.

As part of the pact, the US has agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara “and reaffirms its support for Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara territory.”

“This is another great day for Israeli diplomacy, a day of light befitting Hanukkah,” stated Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

“The renewal of relations between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco is an important and necessary step in the framework of the Abraham Accords,” he added.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan spoke by phone on Thursday with Morocco’s Ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale and offered his congratulations on the establishment of formal relations between the two countries.

Erdan noted that “this was a particularly exciting moment, fulfilling the dreams of many Israelis of Moroccan heritage who remain fiercely proud of their roots and the rich culture of their birthplace.”

Erdan called it “a true miracle, happening on the eve of Hanukkah,” and invited Hilale to the Israeli Mission’s Hanukkah event to be held next week in New York.

“Together with the US administration and under Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership, we are all building a better future for our children and for the world,” Erdan said.

Next came the Kingdom of Bhutan, a small Buddhist country in Southeast Asia, bordering India and China.

Bhutan has full diplomatic relations with only 53 countries, and it was Bhutan that gave the world the ‘Happiness Index’.

The signing ceremony was held at the residence of Israel’s Ambassador to India Dr. Ron Malka on Saturday. Malka held an official exchange of notes ceremony with his colleague, the Ambassador of Bhutan to India, Major General Vetsop Namgyel.

Last weekend, Ashkenazi spoke with his Bhutanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Tandy Dorji. During the conversation, the date of the signing was agreed upon, as was the formulation of a joint work plan in the areas of water management, agriculture, health, and more.

Ashkenazi said that this development is “a milestone in the deepening of Israel’s relations with the Asian region.”

He invited Dorji to visit Israel and expressed hope that in the upcoming year, Israel will host the King of Bhutan in Jerusalem for “a first-of-its-kind royal visit.”

The Foreign Ministry has maintained covert contact with Bhutan in recent years with the goal of establishing official ties, and reciprocal visits of Israeli delegations to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, and from Bhutan to Israel, have been held.

Netanyahu welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations with Bhutan, an “additional fruit of the peace agreements.”

“We are in contact with additional countries that want to join and establish relations with us,” he said.

Morocco and Bhutan are the fourth and fifth to announce the establishment of full relations with Israel in the past five months.

The United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain shortly after it, announced in August the normalization of relations with Israel.

The Abraham Accords were signed between the three countries on September 15 on the White House lawns.

Sudan was next to announce the normalization of relations with Israel in October, Israel’s third peace treaty in two months.

The Abraham Accords, the first pact between an Arab country and Israel in 25 years, is expected to lead to similar agreements with other Arab countries, possibly Oman or Saudi Arabia.

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