Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday received an invitation from King Mohammed VI to visit Morocco, Mr. Netanyahu’s office said, laying the ground for the first such high-level visit since the two countries normalized relations in late 2020 and heralding a possible deepening of diplomatic and security ties.
No date has yet been set for the visit, but Israel’s national security adviser and Morocco’s foreign minister have agreed to coordinate on a date for the visit “in the near future,” according to Mr. Netanyahu’s office.
The news was likely to give Mr. Netanyahu a boost even as the policies of his right-wing government — including increased settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and a more aggressive stance toward the Palestinians — have caused tension in the region.
The exchange between King Mohammed and Mr. Netanyahu also appeared to signal an easing of recent tensions between Morocco and Israel. Morocco had postponed a long-awaited diplomatic summit with Israel this summer in protest against the settlement policy of Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-line government and amid eruptions of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the occupied West Bank.
King Mohammed wrote to Mr. Netanyahu that a meeting between them could be “an opportunity to promote the prospects of peace for all peoples in the region,” based on the principles that “should guide the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s office said that the invitation came in a “warm, personal” letter thanking Israel for its decision this week to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released parts of the letter, praising Israel’s recognition and its decision to consider opening a consulate in the Western Saharan city of Dakhla as “both just and farsighted.”
The king added that Mr. Netanyahu was “welcome to visit Morocco on a mutually agreed date, to be determined through diplomatic channels,” as the king said he had indicated in a phone conversation in December 2020. The king affirmed that the meeting in Morocco would “open up new possibilities for bilateral relations between Morocco and Israel.”
Attesting to the growing security ties between the two countries, Israel recently appointed its first military attaché to Morocco, and a delegation of Israeli soldiers and commanders took part in an international exercise of ground forces in Morocco in June.
The United States-brokered deal in 2020 that led to Morocco’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel included recognition by the Trump administration of Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, where the Polisario Front has fought for decades for independence.
Many Israeli Jews hail from Morocco and have been flocking to the country on “roots” trips in recent years. Yair Lapid visited in his role as Israel’s foreign minister in 2021. In May, Israel’s minister of transportation, Miri Regev, traveled to Morocco and signed bilateral agreements with her counterpart there related to issues including the recognition of driver’s licenses and maritime trade relations.
Historically, Israel and Morocco have engaged in decades of quiet cooperation in military and intelligence realms even in the absence of formal ties. The two countries established low-grade diplomatic relations after Israel reached interim agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1990s, but Morocco ended those amid the violence of the second Palestinian uprising, which broke out in 2000.