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Moroccan senate head hospitalized in Jordan, casting doubt on planned Israel visit

A landmark visit to Israel by the head of Morocco’s senate, Enaam Mayara, was cast into doubt after the Knesset announced Wednesday that he was hospitalized.

The Knesset’s spokesperson’s office said Sunday that Mayara was set to make an official visit Thursday to Israel’s parliament. His trip would mark the first time a Moroccan leader has visited Israel’s legislative body, as well as being one of the most high-level visits by a foreign Muslim politician to the Knesset.

But according to the latest Knesset statement, Mayara has been hospitalized in Jordan since Tuesday, leading him to scrap a planned trip Wednesday to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Knesset did not specify what was ailing Mayara, saying only that his health had deteriorated.

Doctors will soon decide if he will be able to continue onto Israel from Jordan, where he has been visiting since last week.

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Mayara’s scheduled arrival follows reciprocal relationship-building moves taken by Israel in the past months. Critically, in July, Israel recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, over which Rabat has battled rebels.

Morocco’s Parliament Speaker Rachid Talbi Alami (R) listens to visiting Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana (C) speak in Rabat on June 8, 2023. (AFP)

In June, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana became the first head of Israel’s parliament to visit Morocco’s legislature, and a delegation of Israeli lawmakers visited the kingdom this summer as part of a broader parliamentary forum.

Ties with Morocco, normalized in 2020 under the Abraham Accords, have also seen upsets. In June, Rabat canceled its plans to host this summer’s Negev Forum in protest over Israeli settlement announcements. The gathering of foreign ministers from Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the US has been postponed several times since it was first slated to be held in March, in light of rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and some Arab leader discomfort with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government.

However, Ohana, himself the son of Jewish immigrants from Morocco, said Sunday that Mayara’s visit expresses a “hopeful reality, which teaches us about the possibilities of expanding the circles of peace in the Middle East.”

In addition to leading Morocco’s senate, Mayara is the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, an umbrella organization representing regional legislatures. A number of lawmakers are accompanying him on a regional visit, and will also meet with Ohana.