Lessons from Morocco for the United Kingdom and Israel

There is no doubt that 2017 will be remembered as the year that the United Kingdom made arrangements to leave the European Union (EU). It will also be the year that Morocco makes arrangements to return to the African Union (AU), after having left it in 1984. There are many parallels that can be drawn between the three events and lessons for Israel.

Recognition by another state and/ or by regional / international organisations is one of the criteria accepted as granting independence or sovereignty. This is of importance to Israel and her foreign policy. Israel seeks international recognition of its existence and independence. Where individual states refuse and don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel, a compensation is through recognition by regional pacts and membership of international organizations. There are 193 countries in the world today of which 28 are states in the EU and 54 are states in the AU.

The parallel of lessons for Israel and for the United Kingdom from Morocco’s return to the AU go further than this. All three countries face territorial dispute issues that form part of the debate of their membership of regional / international organisations.

Scotland as one of the two Kingdoms in the United Kingdom had a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. A central referendum debate for those favoring remaining in the United Kingdom was the necessity to be in the United Kingdom so as to be in the European Union. Voters elected to remain in. The United Kingdom then had a referendum on leaving the European Union and voters decided to leave. One consequence is that Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom has now become the new land border between the European Union and its neighbor, the United Kingdom. Israel continues to deliberate the future of Gaza, Judea and Samaria that under Israeli law are not part of the sovereign State of Israel.

The United Kingdom should look towards the case of Morocco before finalising departure of the EU. In 1984 Morocco left the Organization of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor, when it chose to recognize the independence of the Sawhrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) – or what Morocco refers to its `southern provinces’. This conflict has its roots in 1975-1976 when Morocco annexed two-thirds of the Western Sahara following Spain’s withdrawal from the territory. This Western Sahara question continued to be a festering sore within the AU where Algeria and the Southern African bloc strongly supporting its independence whilst other African countries favored the de facto status quo as being part of Morocco.

Morocco outside of the AU believed that any loss could offset by strengthening ties with the West, the Arab world and the countries in the Mediterranean Basin. Like Morocco the United Kingdom may find that in a globalizing world a regional response is needed to counter insecurity anywhere and threats to security everywhere, for example terrorism. The same could be said about economic cooperation.

It is not possible for security and economic cooperation if Morocco and the United Kingdom are the only states respectively outside of the AU and EU. These lessons are also applicable to Israel, the Palestinians and other states in the region. It is foolhardy not to hear Israel’s voice and to leave it outside security arrangements and lucrative markets, with the rise of the Palestinian middle class and the consequent rise in purchasing power, civil-war in Syria, radical Islamic threats to government in Egypt and Jordan and a failed state in Lebanon

The United Kingdom should note that Morocco’s re-admission into the AU reflects a realization on its own part and that of the continental body that the approach was fundamentally unworkable, and the most hurt were Morocco’s citizens. Similarly the most affected by Israel’s isolation are the Palestinians. To put if differently, a solution to the Palestinians needs dialogue with the Arab world and Iran.

The North African sub-regional economic and security structure was dysfunctional from birth with the absence of Morocco as will be the North European’s with the absence of the United Kingdom. It is clear that the AU stands to benefit from Morocco’s return to the fold while the EU stands to lose from the United Kingdom’s departure.

More broadly, Morocco’s relative wealth and integration into African economies may also serve as a catalyst for economic growth in its region. So too would peace and open borders between Israel and its neighbors. As Morocco can play a pivotal leadership role in the North African region given the instability besetting so many of its neighbors so too can Israel to her neighbors, from a security perspective, and given the rise of radical Islam.

The case of Morocco shows that British leaders should follow the pragmatism adopted by African leaders while Arab leaders and Iran should recognize the same pragmatism in the episode of Israel.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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