Is Morocco about to renew full diplomatic relations with Israel?

King Mohammed VI of Morocco recently appointed an unofficial ambassador to Israel.

The representative, Serge Bardugo, who served in the past as the Moroccan tourism minister, has already made a number of secret trips to Jerusalem in the past number of months, in the course of which he met with members of the Israeli Knesset and other political officials. In the course of his most recent visit, just a few weeks ago, Bardugo met with Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Diplomatic Affairs Yossi Gal. The two were cautious and chose to meet in a hotel and not in Gal’s office.

Bardugo, an old and well-known friend of the king, serves in Morocco as the chairman of the Jewish community. Morocco closed its formal representative office in Israel six years ago, immediately after the eruption of the el-Aksa Intifada. In the course of the past number of years, the Israelis have sent out a number of feelers to the Moroccans. Those efforts peaked in September 2003 when King Mohammed VI met with the Israeli foreign minister at the time, Silvan Shalom.

Morocco, however, has refused to date to reopen its representative office in Israel. One high-ranking political official in Jerusalem said that “the Moroccans have been signaling that they are prepared to thaw the political freeze with Israel. Bardugo’s arrival in Israel as the permanent representative of the king who will work with Israel is undoubtedly progress in that direction.”

The sudden warming of Israeli-Moroccan relations is hardly coincidental. In the course of his meetings in Jerusalem, Bardugo pressed his interlocutors to urge Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to promote Moroccan interests in the international community.

Among other things, the Moroccan king would like Israel’s help in getting Morocco elected as the host of an important international exhibit that is expected to be held in a few years.

The warming relations is also expected to have an impact on Israeli tourism to Morocco.

BBC Reporter’s Kidnappers Make Demands To Britain, PA And Jordan

The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi published demands made by the kidnappers of the British BBC journalist Alan Johnston. According to the report, the kidnappers have made three demands: One to the Palestinian Authority, one to the U.K. and one to Jordan. The sources, who asked not to be identified, said that Johnston’s kidnappers asked the PA to grant ownership over land illegally, and said that they could not expand upon that demand. They demanded of Jordan that it release the Iraqi prisoner Sajade Rish-Awi, who was charged with responsibility for the terror attacks that shook the Jordanian capital last November. The last demand, ransom of $5 million, is being made of the British government in exchange for Johnston’s release.

The source said that the Palestinian Authority knows where Johnston is being held and said that negotiations for his release were proceeding with difficulty. The source said he was not optimistic about this crisis coming to an end any time soon. A number of days ago, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the British government was opposed to using force to release Johnston in fear for his life.

Bishara’s Replacement

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert turned on Wednesday to the opposition benches to congratulate the new member of Knesset who has replaced Azmi Bishara, Said Nafaa.

Nafaa, a Druze from Beit Jan, is well known for his refusal to serve in the IDF. Not only did he and his four sons refuse to enlist in keeping with the law, Nafaa also established anti-Israel organizations whose goal was to spread his manifesto among young Druze men and women.

In an interview with a small Israeli newspaper, Nafaa said that Azmi Bishara’s “relationship with Hezbollah and Syria is more than legitimate,” and compared Bishara’s actions to those of Natan Sharansky under the Soviet regime. He supports turning the State of Israel into a state of all its citizens, and says he does not understand what the Jews are afraid of: “After all, Maimonides and the golden era flourished under Muslim rule,” he said.

David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il.?His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.