What Is Behind Morocco’s Success in Gaza Aid Effort?

  • Youssef Jajili

    Youssef Jajili is an award-winning Moroccan journalist and documentarian.

As the US, EU, and UN achieve limited results in dealing with Israel, what allowed Morocco to negotiate a deal for increased aid? 

While the US airdropped aid into the Gaza Strip and announced plans to build a temporary port in two months, trucks crossed the Kerem Shalom border from Israel to Gaza following the arrival of 40 tons of aid at Ben Gurion airport from Rabat. This delivery marks a major diplomatic victory for Morocco, as the international community has so far failed to secure consistent and efficient land delivery routes to help the besieged and starving Palestinian population. Morocco is the first country to deliver humanitarian aid via this unprecedented land route 

Before October 7, 500 aid trucks entered Gaza daily; this flow has all but stopped. In the last four weeks, there have been days when fewer than 10 trucks have entered Gaza, where, according to the UN, famine is imminent and almost half of the population is starving 

At his State of the Union address in March, President Biden reiterated that the US was negotiating hard with Israel to allow more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Despite this claim, Israel has resisted US pressure, even as it relies heavily on both American military assistance and diplomatic cover.  

The US has taken to creative means for dealing with its closest ally, working around Israeli restrictions by taking to the air and sea. But America’s controversial and inefficient campaign to airdrop food to Gaza proved fatal after five Palestinians were killed, and many called into question the efficacy of the system since so many of the supplies ended up in the sea or on the shores of Tel Aviv. Ten American airdrops brought fewer meals to Gaza than one Moroccan convoy. 

According to the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, March 12 was the first time the World Food Program resumed aid delivery to Gaza, when Morocco secured its first humanitarian delivery through the Kerem Shalom crossing. 

What is the secret of Morocco’s success, especially when contrasted to the US, EU, and UN’s failure to secure aid into Gaza? How was Morocco able to successfully negotiate the entry of aid through a land route while the US remains committed to “pressure” but unable to act? What is the magic recipe for this tagine diplomacy?  

The relationship between Morocco and Israel reaches beyond the 2020 Abraham Accords; it is cemented by ancestral and personal relationships. In December 2020, Morocco’s King Mohammad VI hosted Jared Kushner, senior advisor to President Donald Trump, and the head of Israel’s National Security Council, Meïr Ben Chabat, to sign a trilateral joint declaration, receiving the two in front a family tree that traces his roots directly to Prophet Muhmmad. Chabat is no stranger to Morocco; he was born in the coastal city of Safi and his family lived in Morocco for generations before immigrating to Israel. Jared Kushner also has ties to Morocco’s Jewish population, as an adherent of the mystical Rabbi David Pinto from the seaside city of Essaouria. 

 Unlike other Middle Eastern countries, Morocco did not turn against its own internal Jewish population when the State of Israel was created. In fact, King Mohammad V protected Moroccan Jews from Nazis when the Vichy regime took control of France. Jewish heritage in Morocco is valued as part of its national history, enshrined in the constitution, where Judaism has a privileged status as “an integral part of Moroccan society.” The government gives preferential treatment specifically to Maliki Islam and Judaism, teaching Judaism in public schools and continuing annual Jewish ceremonies around the country.  

 Last March, I visited Jerusalem at the invitation of Sharaka, an NGO focused on people-to-people diplomacy. Walking the streets, my ears perked up as I heard my native Darija spoken by several Israelis. Friendly and excited to meet a fellow Moroccan, I was invited into several homes. As a journalist I was eager to see how Moroccans were living in Israel. Entering apartments in Ashdod, I felt like I was in Bejaâd, Morocco. All decorative elements were the same: berrad (Moroccan silver teapots) and tbuiga (Moroccan bread baskets) on the table, sinia (traditional silver trays) with delicate filagree work proudly displayed, kaftans being worn, and the comforting scent of preserved lemons over meat as tagines were slow cooking on the stove. Each home contained a familiar sight: a framed portrait of Moroccan King Mohamed V. Regardless of whether one was rich or poor, educated or uneducated, a picture of King Mohamed V wearing a tarbouch hat is a mainstay in all Moroccan homes. It was remarkable to witness Moroccan identity remain strong and steadfast. 

 Today, there are nearly a million citizens of Moroccan origin in Israel. The members of this community have preserved their Moroccan culture and identity even after settling in Israel, and they now constitute a real platform for influencing a possible peace. The leadership in the Kingdom has long believed not just in maintaining an open door for dialogue, but leading it. 

 Political leaders from the two countries have met several times, notably on July 22, 1986, when Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres traveled to Morocco to meet King Hassan II. The late king revealed in a press interview that he told Peres that they “are not allowed to engage in tourism, so either he comes with clear peace proposals or cancel[s] the visit.”  

 For Moroccans, it is not a new concept to open a liaison office with Israel, as this preceded diplomatic normalization between the two countries. On July 4, 1994, the two states opened offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv after a meeting in Paris between the two foreign ministers, though they were closed following the Second Intifada. 

 July 2022 was the first time that a leader of the Israeli army—in this case, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi—made an official visit to Morocco, furthering their strategic and military alliance. Then, on June 7, 2023, Amir Ohana, then Israel’s Knesset Speaker and of Moroccan origin, made the first official visit to the Moroccan parliament, marking a historic milestone as the first visit to a Muslim country. And when Morocco signed onto the Abraham Accords, the Israeli unity government at the time included ten ministers of Moroccan origin, headed by Amer Peretz, the leader of the Labor Party, who grew up in Bejaâd. 

 While not as wealthy as Gulf nations that normalized with Israel, Morocco’s power lies in its commitment to a peaceful relationship with Israel and its status as an honest broker. In fact, in its trilateral agreement with Israel, Morocco stipulated that the Kingdom remains a champion for Palestinian rights, and reiterated that Jerusalem must maintain a special status, a position that aligns with the King’s role as Chairman of the al-Quds Committee 

 The benefits of this relationship became clear in negotiating the land-route deal: according to a Moroccan diplomat in Tel Aviv, it “was opened to the King, President of the Al-Quds Committee, due to His weight, His position, His influence, His moral authority, and His credibility,” adding that “Moroccan solidarity is not dictated by circumstances or by the current situation, it remains constant and continuous.” 

While Jordan and Egypt have older peace agreements and participated for months in negotiations to increase aid to Gaza—thousands of trucks have idled at Egypt’s border with Israel—Morocco succeeded. This pivotal moment demonstrates that the Abraham Accords are not simply a commitment to Israel; they only have meaning if nations are committed to protecting Palestinian rights.  




The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the positions of the Middle East Policy Council.

(Banner image: Melissa Youngern)

  • Youssef Jajili

    Youssef Jajili is an award-winning Moroccan journalist and documentarian.

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