Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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15 Av 5759 - July 28, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Moroccan King Hassan Dies on Friday; Widespread Israeli Government Activity on Shabbos

by Betzalel Kahn and Mordecai Plaut

The death of Hassan, the king of Morocco, close to the onset of Shabbos, resulted in widespread activity in the offices of Prime Minister Barak and President Weizman on Shabbos kodesh parshas Voeschanan.

Morocco's King Hassan, longest reigning Arab monarch after 38 years of rule, having ascended to his throne in 1961, died of a heart attack in Friday in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. He was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Sidi who assumed the name Mohammed VI, who is accomplished in his own right. The new king is a four-star general and holds an academic degree in international law from a French university. The new king married quietly for the first time on Friday night, in keeping with Moslem tradition that a head of state must be married. The name of his bride was not released.

The late king was widely beloved and respected. Many states declared periods of official mourning when the news of his passing reached them. He was generally open to communication with Israel, and cultivated good relations with his former subjects who had moved to Israel.

King Hassan has been one of the most active Arab leaders in advancing the peace process. He hosted Shimon Peres in his palace in 1986, and Yitzhak Rabin when he returned from signing the Oslo accords in September 1993.

The king also initiated a series of contacts with the Moroccan Jewish community in Israel, many of whose leaders visited Morocco. He allowed them to receive Moroccan passports, to set up contacts between the small Jewish community remaining in Morocco and their relations in Israel and establish trade, tourism and agricultural links between the two countries.

In recent years diplomatic representations have also been established in Rabat and Tel Aviv. There were press reports that Hassan's Jewish advisers are close to the Israeli Left and they counselled the king to cool relations while Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel. Whatever the reason, the relationship had cooled off in the past three years.

Heads of state from all over the world attended the Sunday afternoon funeral, including President Clinton, Israeli President Ezer Weizman and Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. At least thirty other states were represented by high level delegations. Hundreds of thousands of Moroccan mourners also came to the state funeral.

The decision regarding the dispatching of the Prime Minister, the President, as well as Minister Shimon Peres and Minister David Levi, and a number of other important figures, to represent Israel at the funeral held Monday afternoon in Rabat, was made jointly by the Prime Minister's office, the President's office, and the Foreign Affairs office, and was announced two hours before the end of Shabbos.

Ehud Barak's spokesman, David Ziso, was quoted in the media by the international news agency a number of times during Shabbos.

Mr. Weizman who, in his capacity of President of the State of Israel, was careful not to publicize mourning announcements on Shabbos, issued his announcement by means of the Spokesman of the President's Home before Shabbos was over, on condition that it be aired on the media only after the end of Shabbos.

Many of the personnel of the Foreign Affairs office were forced to desecrate Shabbos due to the death of the King of Morocco, including the government's secretariat, which decided on Shabbos itself to move the cabinet meeting slated for Sunday to Monday morning.

Both Ehud Barak and his political advisors worked very intensively throughout Shabbos in order to postpone their political meeting with Yasser Arafat, which was supposed to take place on motzei Shabbos and the meeting with President Mubarak which was for slated for Sunday.

"It has become clear that the attempts of senior officials in the government to hide the fact that no Shabbos desecration took place (such as Weizman's attempt to publicize his announcement only after Shabbos) point to the total lack of sensitivity of the current heads current state, who desecrate Shabbos in so shameful a manner. No previous government heads have ever behaved that way," said chareidi public figures.

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