By Jules Crétois

PARIS - Bets are running high on which Arab country will be next to normalise relations with Israel. But so far, Morocco has not yet deviated from its traditional line.

At the end of August, US diplomats were full of enthusiasm following the announcement of the normalisation of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Soon after, the US government announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Oman, Bahrain, Qatar Sudan and Israel.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and advisor to US President Donald Trump, announced his plans to begin an Arab tour that will take him from Saudi Arabia to Morocco.

The stated objective of the visits is to encourage these countries to follow the Emirati lead and normalise their relations with the Hebrew State.

Washington hoped that the Moroccan kingdom would follow in the footsteps of the UAE. The hope stems from tangible elements. Among Arab countries, Morocco was a pioneer in opening discussions with Israel, for example when Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited Hassan II in 1986.

“Liaison offices” were then opened between the two countries in 1994, but relations were interrupted after the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000.

A few days after the signing of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the Head of the Moroccan government, Saad Eddine El Othamni, made a point of declaring: “We refuse any normalisation with the Zionist entity because it encourages it to go further in violating the rights of the Palestinian people.”

He said he was speaking as the leader of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), not on behalf of his government.