RABAT (May. 14)
The two-day national conference of Moroccan Jewish communities which opened here yesterday and ended tonight provided the occasion for a display of warmth by this Arab League member-state toward its 25,000 Jewish citizens and, more significant, cordiality toward Israel.
The 35-member Israeli delegation among the 500 participants and observers from abroad included II Knesset members. They were invited with the consent of King Hassan, suggesting that he viewed the gathering as an international forum with political ramifications.
The opening session was addressed by Interior Minister Driss Basri and Minister of State Moulay Ahmad Alaoui. The head of the Israeli delegation, MK Rafael Edri of the Labor Alignment, invited Hassan to visit Israel.
This was not an official invitation since Edri does not represent the Israel government. But should Hassan ever visit the Jewish State, it would be considered a breakthrough second only to the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s 1977 visit to Jerusalem — a visit that was incubated in Morocco.
Nevertheless, while the Israelis and other Jewish representatives from abroad were treated as honored guests, the discourse between them and the Mo occan officials only emphasized the wide gap that must be bridged.
CALL FOR DIALOGUE BETWEEN JEWS AND ARABS
Basri and Alaoui called for dialogue between Jews and Arabs and urged special efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Alaoui even called for the creation of an Arab-Jewish peace association for the purpose. But there was divergence over how such dialogue would be conducted.
Basri stressed that the basis of solidarity between Arabs and Jews could be strengthened by adhering to the charter of the Fez conference of the Arab League in October, 1982, shortly after President Reagan enunciated his Middle East peace initiative.
Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, who also addressed the gathering, declared that a successful dialogue could be assured only by strict adherence to the Camp David formula. There is a world of difference between the Camp David framework and the Fez formulations.
Fez called for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Bronfman noted that “the peace process must follow closely the Camp David accords” which require that “negotiations on autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza must be renewed, not just between Egypt and Israel but also with the participation of West Bank leaders. ” He added, “We would hope that at some point the negotiations are joined by King Hussein of Jordan.”
The WJC leader stressed that “before such renewed sessions take place, it would be most helpful if relations between Egypt and Israel were restored to a condition that is more in keeping with the peace treaty.” He said it was “disturbing” that Egypt recently broke off relations with Costa Rica and El Salvador because they moved their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The issue of Jerusalem could prove a stumbling block to any Arab-Israeli dialogue at this time and to a subsequent visit to Israel by Hassan. The Moroccan ruler heads the Al Quds community (Al Quds is the Arab name for Jerusalem), an organization fiercely determined to preserve the Arab status of the city Israel declares as its capital.
Moroccan officials reportedly warned the Israeli delegation that Israel would face new problems if it persisted in urging other countries to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem. Since no Arab country will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a visit by Hassan seems unlikely and the consensus of observers here is that he can do little more than help pave the way for better understanding between Jews and Arabs.
HASSAN HAILED AS A MODERATE
Bronfman, in his speech, hailed Hassan as a moderate and a “humanitarian influence.” He observed that “Here in Morocco, Jew and Arab have set an example for all the world to see of living in peace together, pursuing common goals and aspirations even as they worship their God through different doctrine and ritual.”
He declared that under Hassan’s rule, “Morocco has indeed become a moderate state, fully supportive of the concept that Arab and Jew not only can but must live harmoniously together.”
The Moroccan press has devoted considerable space to the conference. Alaoui wrote in Matin Du Sahara that King Hassan is one of the rare Arab heads of state who could call on Jews and Palestinians for mutual recognition to prepare themselves for coexistence tomorrow in Palestine.
But such assertions are not likely to be accepted by Israeli leaders. On the other hand, neither the King nor Moroccan officials can be expected to show greater boldness in public. It is recognized that they must consider the reactions of the other Arab states and organizations.
David Amar, president of the Moroccan Jewish community, pleased the regime by writing in the local press that there could be no peace in the Middle East without recognition of Palestinian rights.
IMPORTANCE OF THE CONFERENCE
The importance of the conference was underlined by the presence of ranking French Jewish leaders, headed by France’s Chief Rabbi Rene Sirat and Theo Klein, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations (CRIF).
In addition to Edri, the Israeli delegation included Labor MKs Yossi Sarid, Raanan Naim, Jacques Amim and Naftali Blumenfeld; Likud MK Meir Shitrit; MK Aharon Abu-Hatzeira, the Moroccan-born leader of Tami, a partner in the Israeli coalition government; Mayor Eli Dan of Ashkelon, who is a member of Tami; Mayor Arye Azulai of Afula, a member of Likud; and Hanna Zemer, editor of the Laborite newspaper Davar.
While the Israeli media reported extensively on the warm welcome accorded the Israelis, Likud spokesmen in. Jerusalem sought to play down the importance of the Moroccan invitation and welcome — presumably because Labor Party members were predominant.