The news comes as Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom is in Morocco to discuss bilateral relations with the North African country.

 

During talks with King Muhammad VI on Tuesday, Shalom was expected to discuss reopening the offices which were closed following the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in 2000.

 

Although no official announcement has yet been made it now appears likely Morocco will back the controversial move.

 

Palestine occupation

 

However, Younes Mujahid, of the Moroccan National Press Union, said it is premature for the government to talk of reestablishing relations with Israel.

 

“Any normalisation has to be linked to a fair settlement of the Palestinian issue,” he said.

 

“This should not be happening while Arab land is being occupied. Israel hasn't given the Palestinians anything up to now - it never makes concessions.”

 

He added: “I think this is a political error. It may well be a goodwill gesture by the Moroccan government but it is misguided.

 

Demonstrations

 

“Any normalisation has to be linked to a fair settlement of the Palestinian issue... This should not be happening while Arab land is being occupied"

 

Younes Mujahid

Moroccan National Press Union  

“The Moroccan people are not obliged to accept this situation because they have already given their opinion by demonstrating in the streets,” he added.

 

But Ali Anouzla, the Rabat bureau chief of Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, said reaction to such a move would be muted.

 

“I doubt there will be much of a reaction,” he said. “We are in the middle of an electoral campaign here so most of the political parties have their attention elsewhere.

 

“And I think the reaction from the Islamist groups will only be through the form of press releases. But I don’t expect to see any demonstrations in the street or anything like that.”

 

And Mr Anouzla rejected accusations the move would be a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

 

Betrayal

 

He said: “This is not a betrayal. Morocco has always campaigned for a fair and just solution in Palestine and it may be that we will have more influence at the negotiating table.

 

“We have a large Jewish community here in Morocco so we could be a major player in the peace process.”

 

At present, the only Arab countries to maintain diplomatic relations with the Jewish State are Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania.

 

Although the Arab masses tend to support the continued isolation of Israel, governments are tempted to open diplomatic channels to curry favour with the United States.