Israel might back Morocco in Western Sahara

Briefly: Israel is reportedly considering recognising Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for full diplomatic ties and a free trade agreement.

Since the 70s, Western Sahara has been split between Moroccan control along the coast, and the local Sahrawi people’s control in the interior (under the flag of the Polisario Front). Though each side claims full sovereignty, the UN has designated it all as a ‘non-self-governing territory’, leaving its status ambiguous.

But in 2020, in exchange for Morocco’s partial upgrade of relations with Israel, the US became the first country to recognise Morocco’s full sovereignty over Western Sahara. And now Israel may do likewise.

Intrigue’s take: Quick quiz: which country was the first to recognise US independence? Yep, it was Morocco. So there was something neatly symmetrical about the US becoming the first country to recognise Morocco’s claims here.

But the US move did attract some criticism that Washington was sacrificing American principles (and Sahrawi rights) for the sake of political expediency.

And if Israel follows suit, it can expect similar criticism (plus a bit more scrutiny of its own territorial disputes back home).

Also worth noting:

  • The speaker of Israel’s Knesset visited Morocco this week, making him the highest-ranking Israeli official to visit since 2020.
  • For four decades, Morocco has been building a 2,700km wall along the Sahrawi areas (longer than the distance between London and Kyiv).