Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom left Jerusalem on Monday for Morocco, where he is to discuss a normalisation of relations with the North African country, Aljazeera reported.

During talks with King Muhammad VI and Moroccan Foreign Minister Muhammad Benaissa, Shalom is expected to raise the question of re-opening liaison offices in Tel Aviv and Rabat, closed following the September 2000 outbreak of the Palestinian uprising.

Reacting to the news, Palestinian Authority official Ahmad Abd al-Rahman said, "It is a shame that some Arab countries have decided to receive the Israeli foreign minister while the democratically elected palestinian president is under siege in his office."

He questioned the kingdom's motives in opening the door to Israel again. 

"Is Morocco rewarding Israel for killing the Palestinians and building the huge apartheid wall on our land?" he asked.

Catastrophic

In Morocco, too, the response was negative.

Khalid Soufiani, the president of Morocco’s Palestine Supporters Association, said, “It would be catastrophic to re-establish ties with Israel, and contrary to the wishes of the majority of Moroccan people.”

The talks come at a sensitive time, with an escalation in the Israel/Palestine conflict and daily attacks on Palestinian territories. 

“The government should categorically refuse to normalise relations, but I fear they may go ahead in order to please America”

Khalid Soufiani, 
President of Morocco’s Palestine Supporters Association

“They have chosen a very bad moment to do this, when Palestinians are being massacred daily,” said Soufiani.

“The government should categorically refuse to normalise relations, but I fear they may go ahead in order to please America.”

Secret meetings

This is not the first high level meeting between the two nations. Shalom secretly met with his Moroccan counterpart Muhammad Bin Issa in August 2003, when the latter accompanied Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas on a visit to Morocco. Aljazeera reported.

At present, the only Arab countries to maintain diplomatic relations with the Jewish state are Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania though in 2002 Egypt limited contacts to those that would help the Palestinians’ cause.

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