Israel acknowledges Moroccan sovereignty over West Sahara


Israel announced on Monday that it is recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, joining the United States as the only countries to acknowledge the kingdom’s annexation of the disputed north African territory. The announcement came shortly after Morocco’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying King Mohammed VI had received a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognizing Morocco’s claim over the territory.
Netanyahu’s office later confirmed the announcement. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said recognition of Western Sahara as Moroccan territory “will strengthen relations between the countries and the nations” and advance regional stability.
Israel and Morocco re-established diplomatic relations as part of the “Abraham Accords” brokered by former President Donald Trump between Israel and Arab states. The two countries had low-level diplomatic ties in the 1990s that were disrupted by the Palestinian uprising that began in 2000.
In exchange for Morocco normalising relations with Israel, the Trump administration promised in December 2020 to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
The announcement upset decades of US policy and international consensus that Western Sahara’s status should be settled by a UN referendum.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony believed to have considerable offshore oil deposits and mineral resources, in 1975, sparking a conflict with the pro-independence Polisario Front.
The UN brokered a 1991 cease-fire and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor the truce and help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future. Disagreements over who is eligible to vote have prevented that vote from taking place.