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Knesset speaker backs Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara

Amir Ohana is in Rabat at the invitation of his local counterpart.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (left) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita meet in Rabat, June 8, 2023. Source: Twitter.
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (left) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita meet in Rabat, June 8, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana on Thursday expressed support for Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Ohana spoke on a day he became the first-ever leader of Israel’s parliament to pay an official visit to the legislature of a Muslim country.

There, he presented the head of the parliament in Rabat with the smallest Koran in the world, printed with Israeli nanotechnology.

“Israel should move toward that goal of recognizing the Moroccan Sahara just as our closest ally the United States did. … I supported and pushed toward that goal,” Ohana said during a news conference in Rabat.

“Serious discussions” between the countries over the issue are underway and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will be announcing his decisions in the near future,” he added.

The groundbreaking trip comes weeks before the foreign ministers of Israel and the four Arab countries that made peace with the Jewish state under the 2020 U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords are due to convene in Morocco.

The son of Moroccan Jewish immigrants to Israel, Ohana is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

The chip containing the nano version of the Koran displayed inside a glass box was presented to Rachid Talbi el-Alami, the president of the House of Representatives of Morocco, who had invited his Israeli counterpart on the visit.

With 320,000 letters, it is 4.7 millimeters (0.185039 of an inch) high and 500 microns (0.019685 of an inch) wide, Ohana wrote on his Facebook page.

“The breakthrough in Israeli-Moroccan relations on the parliamentary level is a marvelous opportunity to connect between the past and the future, between tradition and advancement, between old and new, and to give honorable mention to Israeli innovation and technology,” he posted.

Ohana began his trip on Wednesday evening with a stop at the synagogue in the Moroccan capital where his father used to pray before his parents immigrated to Israel in the 1950s.

The speaker and his host were scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of inter-parliamentary cooperation to strengthen the relationship between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Ohana is also slated to meet with senior officials from the government of Morocco and with leaders of the Jewish community.

“The dream of peace with the lands of Islam has always been in our hearts, and it is only fitting that of all these many countries, it is the Kingdom of Morocco that is the first to invite one of the symbols of government and head of the State of Israel’s legislative branch—who also happens to be the first Knesset Speaker of Moroccan origin—for an official visit to its House of Representatives,” Ohana said.

“History is being made before our eyes, and it heralds the strengthening of the relationship between the two countries, greater closeness between the nations and expanding the circle of peace.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s rule over Western Sahara in return for the kingdom’s partial upgrade of relations with Israel.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, as Israel weighs such similar recognition of the territory

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said this week that he and counterparts from Abraham Accords countries would convene in Morocco “within weeks” for a meeting of the so-called “Negev Forum,” named after the Israeli desert where the leaders first met last year.

Since the agreement, Morocco’s ties with Israel have increasingly developed, with Rabat buying advanced drones and other military equipment as well as cybersecurity products.

About 700,000 Israelis are of Moroccan descent and many of them have maintained strong ties with the country.

Last week, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, whose father was from Morocco, spent a week in the country to sign three bilateral transportation deals.

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