Justice and Development Party at the forefront of normalization between Morocco and Israel

While it never stopped denouncing normalization with Israel, the PJD saw itself playing the leading role in this agreement. How will the signing of the agreement by Saadeddine El Othmani be perceived by members of the Islamist party ?

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On Thursday, the Royal Palace was home to the first act of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Morocco and Israel. The royal reception marked the end of the first of a two-day trip headed by US Senior Advisor Jared Kushner.

Earlier on Tuesday, the US-Israeli delegation landed at the Rabat-Salé airport and was welcomed by Abdessamad Sekkal, president of the council of the Rabat-Salé-Kénitra region and member of the Justice and Development Party.

Later during the day, said delegation met with Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water minister Abdelkader Amara and signed a joint declaration with Head of Government Saadeddine El Othmani, bringing the US, Morocco and Israel together.

During this royal ceremony, all parties described the event as «historic», including the Justice and Development Party which served as the forefront of the rapprochement between the two countries. Saadeddine El Othmani, who has always voiced his rejection to normalization with the Hebrew state, finally signed the agreement himself. Not long ago, El Othmani told the young people of his party, on August 23, that «normalization [with Israel] was a red line» not to be crossed.

Four months later, he became the first Islamist official in an Arab country to sign a document with Israelis. Another member of his party also spoke with officials from Tel Aviv : Abdelkader Amara, the Minister of Equipment and Transport. Both of their attendances bring a serious blow of denial to the statements made a few hours earlier by Abdelaziz Aftati. «No PJD minister will sign an agreement with the Zionist entity», the member of the PJD secretariat had said.

The PJD bites the bullet

After assuming his role, the hardest thing for Saadeddine El Othmani will be to contain the tensions in the ranks of his party a few months before the next elections. Normalization with Israel will be one of the strongest sources of tension among the youth of the party. 

The PJD youth movement's secretary general, Minister Mohamed Amekraz, has twice reiterated this position on Al Mayadeen and France24. The Unicity and Reform Movement (MUR), preaching arm of PJD, also denounced the resumption of relations between Morocco and Israel.

This shows the magnitude of the challenge that El Othmani will have to take up to convince his base that «the other opening» does not clash with the ideological fundamentals of the Islamist party. 

But how can one justify the fact of having played the leading role in signing the agreement with the representatives of the United States and Israel who do not have the same protocol rank ? For the United Arab Emirates, it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdellah Ben Zayed, who signed Abraham's agreement with Israel on September 15 at the White House. And the same applied to Bahrain.

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