Mohamed Chtatou
Mohamed Chtatou

Can Morocco Bring Hamas to the Negotiating Table

In Palestine, history repeats itself regularly, inexorably, and mercilessly. It is always the same tragedy; a tragedy that could be anticipated, so blinding are the data on the ground, but which continues to surprise those who take the silence of the media for the acquiescence of the victims. Each time, the crisis takes on particular contours and follows new paths, but it boils down to one clear truth: the persistence for decades of the interminable fighting of the political/military actors and stoic suffering of Palestinians and Israelis civilians alike who, both are longing for peace, tranquility, and vivre-ensemble.

The latest bout of violence between Israeli troops and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, between May 10 and 21, before a ceasefire temporarily ended the hostilities, lasted 11 days of bombardment, and caused dozens of deaths on both sides, including some 60 children. The exchange of fire between the two belligerents reached a level of violence not seen for two years, reigniting a conflict that has lasted for more than 60 years between the Hebrew state and Palestine.

At the center of this new wave of violence is East Jerusalem/al-Qods, the Muslim quarter of the Holy City, conquered and occupied by Israel since 1967 without the international community recognizing Israel’s rights to this territory. This represents the very heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the Hebrew state considers the entire city as its capital, and the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem/al-Qods as the capital of a future independent state but the violence then shifted to focus on the Gaza Strip – another casus belli between the two states, raising fears of a third intifada, another serialized tragedy for both Israeli and Palestinian people, who both deep-down aspire for a sense of lasting peace and coexistence.

This latest war between Hamas and Israel took place in the aftermath of two important events in the region :

1-The rise of Iran in the Middle East as a regional power aspiring to become nuclear and the fear of the Sunni Arab world of consequent dominance as exerted today ferociously through proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, etc. Indeed, the Houthis armed with Iranian ballistic missiles and drones are threatening the stability and the existence of Saudi Arabia, Hizbollah in Lebanon continues to take the whole country as a hostage as its economy is crumbling and its proper existence is in jeopardy and the Shiites militias of Iraq Hashd Sha’bi continuously putting pressure on the Iraqi government to kick out the Americans; and

2-The advent of the Abraham Accords as a military treaty and economic association uniting Sunni Arabs mainly Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco with Saudi Arabia and the rest of GGC countries in the background and Israel with America behind it, to counter power-voracious Iran and its hostile and bellicose proxies.

Subsequently, the Palestinians and their long-lasting cause felt abandoned while the Israeli colonization of the territories and Judaization of East Jerusalem/al-Qods went unchecked. However, this last fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis have brought to the limelight the Palestinian tragedy, once more, and the need to return, for good, to the two-state political scenario, for a lasting solution to the Palestinian plight and lasting peace for them and for the Israelis.

Does this new development in the region mean the end of the Abraham Accords? For the Islamists in Gaza and the rest of the Arab world, the answer is yes but for moderate Sunni Arabs, the Abraham Accords are here to stay because they are not only a military treaty to check the aggressiveness of Iran in the region but most importantly an economic association that will bring besides peace and wellbeing to everyone. While Islamists want a Sunni Arab world similar to Iran in its theocracy and religious zeal. However, the majority of Arabs want jobs for bread and peace for democracy.

The progressive Moroccan newsmagazine Le Desk in its issue number 688 dated May 27, 2021, in an article entitled: “Comment Israël veut amener Hamas à se plier aux Accords d’Abraham (How Israel wants to get Hamas to comply with the Abraham Accords)” argues under the authorship of Mohammed Khadra that Israel wants to give Hamas the illusion of victory to bring it to the negotiating table to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all and move on with the Abraham Accords as the platform of the future Arab-Israeli economic association. For this Moroccan online publication, this mini-war Hamas-Israel happened as the Arab Israeli Islamist party Raam of Abbas Mansour was negotiating entering the government coalition of Bennett-Lapid that ousted Netanyahu.

In this unrealistic and absurd scenario but true in real life, in one end Islamist Hamas was showering Israel with its imprecise ballistic missile sowing fear more than harm and threatening the enemy with armageddon, in the other, the Arab Israeli homegrown Islamist party Raam was preparing to assume power in the government and in the Knesset in this only Middle Eastern democracy.

As such, the Abraham Accords are alive and kicking, more than ever, and in the long run, after the initial stage, more Arab countries will join the fray including “progressive“ Algeria to share in its economic benefits. For now, both the United Arab Emirates and Morocco are moving on with the application of this association. The Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapid is going on with an official visit to UAE and Morocco is preparing to welcome its first Israeli tourists in August, an influx of visitors that would put the smile on the face of Moroccan tourism after the horrendous 18 months pandemic period of lean times. Almost a million Moroccan Jews live in Israel, the current government has 3 female Moroccan Jewish ministers, and who are emotionally and religiously linked to Morocco. Thus, Morocco is hoping that with time thousands of these people, whose departure was regretted by Moroccans, will visit their homeland first and invest in it later as a sign of renewed love and expression of gratitude to a country that never forgot them and that they treasure in their hearts, in return.

After the fighting subsided between Hamas and Israel, Haniyeh visited some countries in the Middle East and then Morocco to meet with his counterpart Islamists of the Parti de Justice et du Développement -PJD-, in power. He had talks with the Head of Government Saaddine Al-Othmani in his capacity of the head of PJD. Haniyeh was received by other political parties who celebrated his astounding “victory“ against Israel. However, official Morocco stated that the visit was “private“ and the King never received Haniyeh. However, while Haniyeh was visiting Morocco, the King congratulated officially Bennett for winning the premiership and a Moroccan minister of al-Othmani’s cabinet flew to Israel to partake in an official activity there.

All these Moroccan wheeling and dealing leaves one flabbergasted and wondering what is going on and as Shakespeare says in Hamlet: “Though its madness, there is a craft in it“. The craft in this is that it seems that Morocco is yet again, as in the past with Arafat is trying to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis to the negotiating table around the two-state scenario, this time, to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinians and the Israelis alike and usher in a new era of prosperity in the MENA region. Is this pure wishful thinking or a daydream to become reality, only time will show?

About the Author
Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of “MENA region area studies” at Université Internationale de Rabat -UIR- and of “Education” at Université Mohammed V in Rabat, as well. Besides, he is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, American, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islamism and religious terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism. During 2015 he worked as Program Director with the USAID/CHEMONICS educational project entitled: “Reading for Success: A Small Scale Experimentation” in cooperation with the Moroccan Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP). He recently taught cultural studies to Semester abroad students with AMIDEAST, IES and CIEE study abroad programs in Morocco insuring such courses as: “Introduction to Moroccan Culture,” “Contemporary North African History,” “Arab Spring,” “Amazigh Culture,” “Moroccan Jewish Legacy,” “Community-Based Learning” (internship with civil society organizations). He is, also, currently teaching “Communication Skills” and “Translation and Interpreting” to master students at The Institute for Leadership and Communication Studies –ILCS- in Rabat, Morocco and supervising several Fulbright students in areas of religion and culture in Morocco. He has taught in the past some courses in universities in the USA, Spain, France, Italy, England and Greece.
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