President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that Israel and Morocco have agreed to restore full diplomatic relations in a White House-brokered deal, which also involved formal U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara.
Trump sealed the agreement in a phone call with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Thursday, the White House said, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past four months.
“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations—a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!” Trump wrote in a tweet.
Part of the agreement involved American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory, a desert region where a decades-old dispute has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory.
“The United States believes that an independent Sahrawi State is not a realistic option for resolving the conflict and that genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution,” Trump wrote in a proclamation that he signed on Thursday, which formalized America’s new policy regarding the territory.
Calling Morocco’s autonomy plan “the only framework to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution” that would ensure a lasting end to the conflict, Trump said the United States would open a consulate in Dakhla, which is the Western Sahara territory, to help promote economic and business opportunities for the region.
Under the agreement, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel, including allowing overflights and direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis.
“They are going to reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies,” White House adviser Jared Kushner said in a call with reporters.
Morocco is the fourth country since August to strike a normalization with Israel with assistance from the White House. The others were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.
Much of the momentum behind the deal-making has been to forge an alliance against an increasingly assertive Iran and counter its regional influence.
“If you look back at the last four years when the President came into power, Iran was greatly empowered,” Kushner said. “You know, they’d just done the terrible JCPOA deal, ISIS was running rampant, all of America’s allies in the region felt very alienated.”
Under Trump, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. While the deal curbed some of Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for ending sanctions that had crippled its economy, the agreement allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium, placed no restrictions on the Iranian regime’s other malign actions in the region, and key provisions expired in 10 years.
“Now we have peace sprouting in the Middle East,” Kushner said, adding that he believes Saudi Arabia will eventually strike a similar deal with Israel.
The Trump White House has tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to sign on to a normalization deal with Israel, believing if the Saudis agreed other Arab nations would follow, but the Saudis have not yet signaled their readiness.