What was the relationship between Israel and Morocco’s King Hassan?
Morocco is perhaps Israel’s closest friend in the Arab world, far more cooperative than the hostility Israel receives from the others. King Hassan II often tried to be a behind-the-scenes catalyst in the Arab-Israeli peace process and took risks with the wrath of his Arab allies. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Hassan developed a relationship with the Israelis on many levels. Delegations of specialists from the two countries had many meetings, secret and open, on subjects such as security, diplomacy, agriculture, transportation, and journalism.
On July 22 and 23, 1986, in a break with Arab solidarity on Palestine, Prime Minister Peres met King Hassan at the king's palace in Ifrane. This was the first instance of a public meeting between an Arab leader and an Israeli Prime Minister since the Egyptian-Israeli meetings of the late 1970s.
The meeting ended without results; Peres refused King Hassan's request to commit himself to withdraw from the territories which Israel had captured in 1967. The day after the meeting, Syria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco and attacked it in Arab institutions for holding the meeting, and for the unacceptable digression from the consensus. Hassan was impacted by the Syrian response, which apparently delayed the establishment of relations between Morocco and Israel for several years, although warm relations already existed below the surface.
In 1994, an Israeli mission (almost an embassy) was opened in Morocco. In May 1995, Hassan mediated peace talks between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.
Although full diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco still do not exist, Hussan worked behind the scenes to promote Israel-Arab peace from the 1970s onward. For this, Hassan was admired and honored in Israel. When he died in 1999, the top echelon of Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Moroccan-born Foreign Minister, David Levy, flew to Rabat for King Hassan's funeral. Starting with the arrival of the first dignitaries, the funeral proceedings were broadcast live on Israeli television for hours
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