Nearly six months into his deployment to Morocco, Israel’s head of mission to the North African country is still working from his hotel, as he struggles to find premises for his office.
David Govrin was named head of Israel’s liaison office in Morocco in January after Rabat normalised relations with Israel late last year, becoming the fourth Arab country to do so in the past nearly two years. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalised ties with Israel in September last year while Sudan followed suit earlier this year.
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Prior to this Egypt and Jordan were the only country to have signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
In exchange, the administration of former US President Donald Trump agreed to recognise Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region.
According to media reports in Morocco as well as Israel, people in the capital Rabat have refused to rent to the Israeli emissary.
“The agency hired to find accommodation for Govrin found an appropriate residence in a residential compound in an upscale area in Rabat, and Govrin agreed and thought that the flat had the required security measures,” the local Assahifa website reported last week.
“However, the problem was that the owners categorically refused to rent their properties to the Israeli diplomat as soon as they knew who he was.”
The newspaper quoted a Morocco source as saying the same thing had happened “in other residential compounds in the area”.
Govrin, a former ambassador to Egypt, is still staying at a Rabat hotel, the newspaper said.
The announcement of the normalisation of ties with Israel in December had sparked uproar in Morocco, where several protests were held to denounce the move.
Morocco responded to criticism by saying that the kingdom’s relations with Israel were “already normal”, and that the move was tantamount to “resumption” of ties.
“From our perspective, we aren’t talking about normalisation because relations were already normal. We’re talking about [re-formalising] the relations between the countries to the relations we had because there have been relations the entire time. They never stopped,” Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said in an interview with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper last year.
— Inasse Yaacobi (@inasseyaacobi) July 20, 2014
More recently, thousands of Moroccans marched in cities across the country to denounce the latest 11-day Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, with the ruling Justice and Development Party demanding the closure of Israel’s liaison office. About 250 Palestinians were killed while rockets fired from Gaza killed 12 people in Israel.
Rights groups have slammed Israel for its “disproportionate attack” on Gaza, which has been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2007.
Last month, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Israel’s attacks on Gaza may constitute “war crimes” if they are shown to be disproportionate.
The UN rights body has agreed to launch an open-ended international investigation into violations during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza, and into “systematic” abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories and inside Israel.