Israeli Envoy Tells TML: King of Morocco Ordered Closer Ties to Israel ‘in All Aspects’
Government ministers Sa’ar, Frej visit Morocco, advancing cooperation on judicial systems, higher education
Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar embarked on a four-day visit to Morocco on Monday, where he is set to meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Ouahbi. They are expected to sign a memorandum on legal cooperation between the countries.
The memorandum will aim to modernize both nations’ judicial systems through digitalization, initiating a public defense system in Morocco, and cooperation between their respective Islamic courts.
Sa’ar expressed hope that his visit will strengthen the bilateral relationship.
Eran Davidi, director-general of the Justice Ministry, who is joining Sa’ar in Morocco, told The Media Line, “Israel has a special connection in the field of law with a few countries, and it really takes the bilateral relations to another level. The fact that I not only have diplomatic relations with a state but that I can call colleagues in another Justice Ministry and consult with them about matters of criminal law or legal policy puts the two countries in a different, closer position.
“The Moroccan Justice Ministry is very eager to learn from us. We have a lot of experience in making legal procedures digital and making them accessible to the public. We also want to exchange knowledge about alternatives to criminal punishment and see how they combine the religious and secular law systems, which is a challenge we face in Israel too,” the director-general continued.
“One more thing we are hoping to go forward with is prisoner exchange agreements. Israel has a strong interest in this topic, as heads of crime families many times flee to Morocco,” Davidi explained.
David Govrin, Israel’s ambassador in Rabat, discussed in an interview with The Media Line some of the reasons for the unusually fast development of ties between the countries.
“First, what we are seeing is not the creation of ties out of nowhere. Israel and Morocco are renewing their relationship, as they had bilateral relations in the past,” he said, referring to the low-level diplomatic ties that Morocco suspended during the Second Intifada in 2000.
“Second, there’s a direct instruction from the king to develop the connection to Israel in all aspects, and it shows,” Govrin said. “Unlike with Egypt or Jordan, where the ties are mainly around security, with Morocco it’s different: It’s both a strategic alliance and a deep cultural connection between civil communities. Therefore, all the visitors who arrive here [Morocco] are astonished by the warm welcome they get.”
More senior Israeli officials will visit the kingdom in the coming weeks, Govrin said. “Morocco’s foreign minister will probably visit Israel soon, and only after that we might start seeing a flow of Moroccan officials coming to Israel,” the ambassador added.
Govrin formerly headed the Jordanian Department in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and was ambassador to Egypt from 2016 to 2020.
Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej arrived in Morocco on Sunday for a five-day visit, meeting with Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation Abdellatif Miraoui.
According to a statement issued by Frej, the ministers were to discuss funding scholarships for higher education.
“I’m glad to visit the kingdom of Morocco, which is not only a true friend of Israel, but a lighthouse of coexistence for different religions and peoples,” Frej said in a statement. He will be a guest of André Azoulay, special adviser to King Mohammed VI. Frej is the first Muslim Israeli minster to visit the country.
The visits of the two ministers are taking place just a week after one by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the first-ever official visit of an Israeli general to a Muslim country.
“One of the motives that’s making relations develop so fast is Israel’s security contribution to Morocco’s fight against the Polisario Front and jihadist forces in Western Sahara,” Dr. Emmanuel Navon, a lecturer on international relations at Tel Aviv University, told The Media Line.
“Israel has a lot to contribute, in arms and in intelligence abilities, and most of the ministers arriving in Morocco are relevant to this sort of cooperation,” he said. “This doesn’t mean there isn’t true peace between the civil societies. But we must remember that the Moroccan king approved the normalization in exchange for an American recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. That’s what it is about.”
When asked about threats to the ties between Israel and Morocco, Navon is optimistic: “I think these relations should be seen in a broader perspective. Not only bilateral relations, but Morocco as a gate to the European Union, and to Africa. It’s a very active country, with a lot of common interests with Israel. Close coordination could open more doors for Israel on both continents,” he said.
Israel and Morocco opened full diplomatic ties in December 2020 as part of a series of peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan known as the Abraham Accords.