RABAT, Morocco (Aug. 28)
The same forces driving young Jews out of Morocco — a lack of jobs and economic instability — are taking a toll on all Moroccans, according to Marc Ginsberg, the U.S. ambassador to Morocco.
For that reason, Ginsberg, the first Jew to hold his post, would like the United States to work in partnership with Morocco to increase trade and economic opportunities.
“Thousands and thousands of young Moroccans need jobs,” said Ginsberg during a recent group interview at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat.
“The American Jewish community should understand that Morocco is open for business,” he said. “The best way, the most tangible way, is not only to come here, but to come here and invest and support the political process.”
An international trade lawyer who has served in both the Carter and Clinton administrations, Ginsberg came to his post with distinctive credentials.
Educated as a child in Israel, Ginsberg speaks Hebrew and Arabic, and holds degrees in both law and Islamic affairs from Georgetown University.
Part of the circle of young Democrats who have taken prominent positions in the Clinton administration, Ginsberg served as a Middle Eastern adviser to Al Gore during his bid for president in 1988.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, he served as Bill Clinton’s liaison to the Jewish community.
According to Ginsberg, Morocco’s King Hassan II brings to his position 30 years of experience as a statesman, with a “vision and understanding and appreciation of the Middle East.”
‘MOROCCO IS A PIVOTAL PLAYER’
As a result of the king’s experience, Ginsberg said, Hassan was able to serve as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and ease the way for last September’s signing of the declaration of principles in Washington.
“The importance of Morocco is as a pivotal player in the peace process,” Ginsberg said. “The American Jewish community needs to (hear) more that Morocco deserves credit.”
Despite the fact that Israel and Morocco do not yet have diplomatic relations, the ambassador said, plans for $100 million in trade between the two countries are in the works, including aviation, telephone and postal links. Currently, Moroccans cannot send letters or make telephone calls directly to Israel.
And although Morocco has “technically not renounced the (Arab) boycott of Israel,” he said, “for all purposes, it no longer observes” the prohibitions.
By participating as a mediator in the peace process, King Hassan, from the Moroccan perspective, has taken a “politically risky” postion, given opposition to his moves from major parties in the country’s parliament.
“American Jewish leaders should line up behind the king,” Ginsberg said, letting him and the opposition know that “the American public applauds his effort.”
In addition to serving as a mediator in the Middle East, he said, Morocco also is dealing with other critical issues closer to home. One is the future of Western Sahara, a former Spanish clony reclaimed by Morocco in 1975 and now seeking its independence. Algerian-backed guerrilla fighters have led rebellions in the region, on and off, for the last two decades.
In addition, the resurgence of religious fundamentalism in neighboring Algeria has posed challenges to Morocco, which has long held cordial relations with the West, Ginsberg said.
The challenge for Morocco, according to Ginsberg, is to “balance the competing forces of Islam, democracy and the West. Islam is not an incompatible force with economic growth and Westernization.
“We in the United States have an obligation to remember who our friends are, who our friends were for the last 200 years, and who our friends will be.”