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Israel apologizes after PM uses map of Morocco without Western Sahara

The Foreign Ministry calls the depiction an "unintentional mistake" and "technical error."

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

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem issued an apology on Friday following an uproar in Moroccan media over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s use of a map during a recent interview that did not depict Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

The controversy erupted after Netanyahu appeared on France’s LCI channel on Thursday evening, holding a map of Morocco that excluded the Western Sahara. This contradicted Israel’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the region just over a year ago in a letter from Netanyahu himself to King Mohammed VI.

Israel and Morocco signed their first intellectual property agreement on July 18, 2022. Photo by Nathan Chicheportiche/Israel in Geneva.

The Moroccan website Hiba Press accused Netanyahu of “once again provoking the Moroccans” with the “truncated map, without [Western] Sahara,” as he discussed the Middle East situation and the Hamas war. Another popular news outlet claimed Netanyahu looked angry while holding a map that did not include Morocco’s “southern regions.”

Social media users in Morocco condemned the Israeli leader’s conduct, saying the kingdom does not need recognition of its claims from the “occupying entity.”

Responding to the outcry, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Arabic spokesperson Hassan Kaabia apologized on X for the map depiction, calling it an “unintentional mistake” and “technical error.”

Kaabia conveyed a message directly to King Mohammed, saying he wished to clarify the situation and apologize for the mistake. He reaffirmed the close relationship between Israel and the North African nation, emphasizing that Israel stands firmly by its previous recognition of Western Sahara as rightfully part of Morocco.

The decades-old Western Sahara conflict pits Morocco, which controls most of the territory and offers autonomy under its sovereignty, against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front demanding an independence referendum for the local Sahrawi population.

In 2020, the Trump administration broke with past U.S. neutrality by recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty claim as part of normalizing ties between Israel and Morocco.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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