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Israel apologises after Netanyahu shows map of Morocco without Western Sahara

Image sparks uproar on Moroccan social media, prompting an apology from Israel's foreign ministry
Benjamin Netanyahu points to a map of the Middle East and North Africa in a video filmed in his office (X)
Benjamin Netanyahu points to a map of the Middle East and North Africa in a video filmed in his office (X)

Israel was forced to apologise to Morocco on Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video showing him brandish a map that did not recognise the kingdom's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

The map, which aimed to show Israel's isolation in a region of Arab states, was heavily criticised by Moroccans, who noted that Western Sahara - a contested region that Morocco has claimed since 1975 - was marked as a separate entity.

Israel recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the region in 2023 following a normalisation deal between the two countries in 2020, which also saw the US recognise Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Hassan Kaabia apologised for what he said was a mistake.

"Due to an unintended error, a huge media sensation was created regarding a map used by Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the map of Morocco appears cut off from its desert," he wrote in Arabic.

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"Israel and Morocco are brothers and sisters, and we will not back down from our historical recognition of the Moroccan claim to the Sahara."

The uphill struggle of Sahrawis battling Morocco on Western Sahara's berm
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Netanyahu told Moroccan King Mohammed VI in July that Israel would register its recognition of Morocco's claims over Western Sahara with the United Nations and other international organisations. Israel is also reportedly considering opening a consulate in the Western Sahara city of Dakhla.

Sahrawi nationalists, led by the Polisario Front, fought a war with Morocco between 1975 and 1991 for self-determination in their homeland.

A ceasefire established in 1991 collapsed in 2020 and fighting has resumed mainly along the artificial wall created by Morocco that delineates the areas of the Western Sahara controlled by the kingdom as opposed to those controlled by the Polisario Front.

Both Palestinians and Sahrawis have fiercely condemned the deal between Israel and Morocco, saying it undermines the right to self-determination for both groups living in occupied territories.

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