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The Israel-Morocco peace deal Donald Trump has brokered is risky

 The Israel-Morocco peace deal Donald Trump has brokered is risky Even by his standards US president Donald Trump’s latest “peace” deal is a...

 The Israel-Morocco peace deal Donald Trump has brokered is risky

Even by his standards US president Donald Trump’s latest “peace” deal is among the strangest his administration has struck. 

In exchange for Morocco normalising diplomatic relations with Israel, the US will recognise Rabat’s claim to the disputed Western Sahara territory. In this quid-pro-quo arrangement are all the hallmarks of Mr Trump’s leadership style: an attempt to gratify his ego, the love for a deal whatever the long-term costs and an indifference to the damage the approach causes. 

The deal with Morocco, struck on Thursday, is just the latest in a string of agreements with Arab countries that have improved relations with Israel at the behest of the US government. 

All have been transactional: Sudan was removed from the list of states sponsors of terrorism, while the Trump administration gave the United Arab Emirates a green light to buy advanced US-made F-35 fighter jets. 

Morocco, for its part, has gained US recognition of its claim to the Western Sahara, a region whose status has been disputed since Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew in 1975. Today, control is contested between Morocco and the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, who want independence for the region. 

Tensions in the Western Sahara are already high. The Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed independence movement, has been taking potshots at the Moroccan troops who guard a 2,700km-long fortified sand wall in recent weeks. This followed an incursion by Moroccan troops into a demilitarised buffer zone to clear a highway linking north Africa to sub-Saharan Africa that was blocked by protesters. 

A UN resolution in 1991 which underpinned a near 30-year ceasefire called for the status of the territory to be decided by a referendum. The move by the US to recognise Morocco’s claim shatters that international consensus — the EU has said it will continue to treat the territory as disputed — and will embolden a Moroccan regime already accused of human rights violations in the territory. 

It risks further destabilising a region riven by conflicts in Mali and Libya, fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist terrorism. 

In this deal the long-term goals of US foreign policy appear to have been subordinated to Mr Trump’s desire to present himself as a peacemaker and master negotiator. He failed to broker a promised “deal of a century” to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but still aims to outdo his predecessor Barack Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize. 

On its own, the deal with Morocco would be irresponsible. As part of a strategy for achieving a satisfactory resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict it is absurd. Mr Trump’s strategy has been to deliver everything that one side could ask for and remove any leverage from the other — recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, acknowledgment of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights region and more normal relationships with the Arab world. 

This result is the relaxation of pressure on Israel to negotiate for a long-term solution.

The Trump administration's latest deal will not only fail to advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It may actually ignite a new conflict. Without the prospect of a referendum, the Polisario Front is likely to intensify its armed activities in the Western Sahara. Polisario may also receive increased assistance from its main sponsor — raising tensions between Morocco and Algeria. Rather than burnishing his credentials as a peacemaker in his last days in office, President Trump is in danger of priming a new round of instability.


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