Morocco can play a significant role in brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. A progressive Muslim country with both African and European influences, it is strategically located to be the center of a Western-Muslim dialogue.
King Mohammed VI represents the kind of moderate and progressive world views on which the Western world should capitalize and promote as a formidable and open-minded new brand of Islam. Under Mohammed VI, Morocco has become increasingly more democratic, and the rule of law and human rights have been reinforced. It is a haven for moderate Islam: both men and women preachers have a role in promoting an Islam based on tolerance and respect of other religions.
The King has significantly advanced the causes of women’s rights, freedom of the press, and the rule of law. In Morocco, women can vote, drive, obtain a divorce, and hold senior positions, thanks largely to a new family code which was initiated by the King. The Mourchidat are the Islamic world’s only female clerics, a program started by the King in 2004. The Mourchidat are a rare experiment in the Muslim world.
But most importantly, the King holds unique authority among both Israelis and Palestinians as a credible and honest broker, capable of facilitating a dialogue between the two. As a direct descendant of the Prophet, he possesses an authenticity within the Muslim world that sets him apart as a conduit of Islam.
Because of this lineage, Palestinians trust and respect him, despite his efforts to promote a more liberal Muslim democracy, which has earned him the condemnation of more radical Islamic fundamentalists. And as an advocate for security and coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, he’s earned the favor of many Jewish leaders who see him as perhaps one of the only moderate Arab leaders who recognize Israel’s legitimacy.
As King, he is Commander of the Faithful, but King Mohammed VI has positioned himself as commander of all faiths, and not just Islam, which signals to Christians and Jews that he is open-minded and a natural conduit between the three faiths. His position has always been clear : security for Israel and dignity for the Palestinians. If the West focuses on these two principles, as he has, the objective has a useful clarity and direction.
Because King Mohammed VI is the literal embodiment of moderate Islam, and simultaneously promotes a Western and democratic world view, Morocco is uniquely positioned to offer the kind of insight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that America desperately needs. While America should continue to play an integral role in establishing peace in the Middle East, the aid of a third party like Morocco would be invaluable.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both met with Mohammed VI during their terms to gain insight into the Middle East crisis, and Bush in particular relied on Morocco to promote a more democratic and progressive brand of Islam to the rest of the Arab world. When Barack Obama took office, King Mohammed VI wrote him a letter, suggesting the ways in which the president could communicate better with the Muslim world. This seems the perfect opportunity to seek the advice of someone better qualified to navigate through the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his speech in Cairo, Obama rightly pointed out that Morocco was the first country to recognize America as an independent nation. Perhaps Obama would be wise to repay the favor, and recognize Morocco as an important delegate in advancing Middle East peace.
King Mohammed’s s inspirational words still ring in the ears of both Palestinians, Israelis, and the world community: “The world still had a long way to go before states and peoples learn to accept diversity. It was of utmost importance that the United Nations became the standard bearer of peace, tolerance, and mutual understanding and serve as a catalyst for a new form of cooperation; one based on solidarity and dedicated to achieving the dignity and well-being of all people.”
As the President of Jerusalem Committee, King Mohammed deployed great efforts to iniate a series of social, educational projects in Jerusalem for the benefit of Muslim and christian Palestinians. On the political level, Morocco praised the United Nations General Assembly’s decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to that of a “non-member observer state”. Certainly, this would give a new impetus to the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
For all the Holocaust denying and minimizing in the Arab world, there is one leader in the Arab world who speaks out unabashedly about the horrors of the Holocaust, writes the chairman of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“The leader of an Arab Muslim nation made some remarkable statements about the Holocaust – remarkable for their courage and respect for historical truth. In a largely unreported speech at the Royal Palace in Fez in 2009, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI called the Holocaust “one of the blots, one of the most tragic chapters in modern history.” The king added, “Amnesia has no bearing on my perception of the Holocaust, or on that of my people.”
Enjoying a wide credibility of the main conflicting parties in the Middle East, Morocco can be a major broker in the frozen peace process. Now the two main protagonists should show a total commitment to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace that would allow both Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side safely and in harmony. Morocco is ready.
About the author: Said Temsamani
Senior Fellow at the Meridian International Center and member of the National Press Club, Washington DC. Said Temsamani is a political analyst who follows events in Morocco and across North Africa.