Just three months before he is due to turn the reins of power over to his Likud Party rival, Prime Minister Shimon Peres has achieved at least a semblance of the dramatic demonstration of international statesmanship that had eluded him for nearly two years.
While Peres had hoped that his history-making diplomatic breakthrough would be the start of a peace dialogue with Jordan's King Hussein, that dream was dashed Feb. 19 when Hussein broke with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and their joint peace initiative became mired in Arab bickering.
Peres' trip to Morocco, while not expected to result in a showcase breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict, nonetheless is a substantial prize for Peres to carry with him on Oct. 25, when he moves from the imposing prime minister's office here to the less impressive compound of Foreign Ministry buildings a mile away.
Apart from meetings between Egyptian and Israeli leaders that began in 1977 and continued until 1981, it is the first open contact between Israel and an Arab state.
Whatever long-term moderating effects it might have on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the trip is an achievement of the kind that Peres frequently said privately that he would like to take with him when he leaves office, as well as something he can point to if he finds himself in another parliamentary contest with Yitzhak Shamir,who is scheduled to take over the premiership.
Israel's population is more than half Sephardic -- Jews with origins in the Arab world or in West Asia -- and the large Moroccan electorate has become pivotal.
"Peres went and got the Moroccan endorsement of the Labor Party," a Moroccan-born Jerusalem restaurant owner shouted today upon hearing news of the trip.
Peres' meeting with Hassan continues a long personal relationship conducted until now in geniunely secret tete-a-tetes in neutral capitals. While opposition leader, Peres met with Hassan in 1979 and 1981, and unconfirmed reports say he met secretly with him in a European capital since becoming prime minister.