Morocco Breaks Ties With Israel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel reacted coolly Tuesday to Morocco's decision to sever low-level diplomatic relations with Israel as a protest against recent Israeli-Palestinian clashes.

Morocco's official news agency published a brief statement on Monday citing "the failure of the peace process due to the Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians for several weeks" as the reason for a decision to "shut down the Israeli liaison bureau in Rabat and its diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv."

Morocco also linked the decision to Prime Minister Ehud Barak's weekend announcement that it was taking a "time-out" to reassess the peace process.

In its response Tuesday, Israel simply said that it "notes Morocco's decision to close the liaison offices in both countries."

"This step is inconsistent with Morocco's legacy as a promoter of peace and dialogue in the region," a foreign ministry statement said.

A ministry spokesman declined to say more, pointing out only that the neutral language had obviously been chosen for a reason.

Morocco, which established formal ties with Israel in 1994, has been involved in secret mediating efforts between Israel and other Arab states since the 1970's.

Morocco's decision this week followed that of Tunisia, which broke ties with Israel on Sunday. Tunisia acted after an emergency Arab summit condemned Israel for its reaction to Palestinian rioting, but the Arab summit stopped short of calling on member nations to cut relations with Israel.

The Persian Gulf emirate of Oman has also severed relations.

Israel has full diplomatic ties with just two Arab states: Egypt since 1979 and Jordan since 1994.