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Israel and Morocco Sign Significant Security, Military Deals
Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right, signs a Defense Memorandum of Understanding with Moroccan Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in Charge of National Defense, H.E. Abdellatif Loudiyi in Rabat on November 24, 2021. (Ariel Hermoni/Israel Ministry of Defense)

Israel and Morocco Sign Significant Security, Military Deals

The two countries normalized relations last year as part of the Abraham Accords, but the agreement has caused some friction with neighboring Algeria

Arab leaders continue to flock toward Israel, signing normalization agreements and holding high-level meetings, something that was taboo just a few years ago.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz this week became the first in his post to visit Rabat, and the second high-ranking government official, signing several agreements, in intelligence, defense industries, and cybersecurity. The defense memorandum of understanding is the first ever signed between Israel and an Arab country.

Gantz’s visit to Rabat sparked different responses among Moroccans. Some welcomed it, saying the North African Arab kingdom will gain from the new relationship, while others rejected it.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan in normalizing ties with Israel last year with the support of former US President Donald Trump, who recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a reversal of nearly half a century of US diplomatic policy, in return for Morocco’s decision to normalize ties with Israel.

Mohamed Bouden, head of the Atlas Center for the Analysis of Political and Institutional Indicators, told The Media Line that the visit “reflects the importance of relations with the Kingdom of Morocco for Israel, as it represents a continuation of resetting relations on strategic axes since the signing of the Moroccan-American-Israeli tripartite agreement in December 2020.”

Bouden says the ties are important to both sides.

“Morocco will benefit from Israel’s experience in the military industry, cyber matters and methods of energy discovery,” he said.

Daniel Ben-Simon, a former member of Israel’s parliament, told The Media Line that this “historic visit by a top Israeli official is an indication of the strong ties that have existed for decades.”

“The relationship has been there since the 50s and 60s, in the 70s became very strong, and in the last few years it has been the strongest among Arab countries,” says Ben-Simon.

Morocco was supposed to be the gate for normalization with Arab countries and other opportunities for peace because Israel and Morocco is not a new story, it’s an old story

He says even before signing a normalization accord, there was a “natural rapprochement” because of the large Moroccan Jewish community in Israel. There are at least one million Jews of Moroccan origin in Israel, and many of them have visited Morocco regularly despite the countries not having had official ties with the encouragement of former King Hassan II, and the current king, his son Mohammed V.

“Morocco was supposed to be the gate for normalization with Arab countries and other opportunities for peace because Israel and Morocco is not a new story, it’s an old story,” Ben-Simon said.

Now tension is rising between Morocco and Algeria, with the latter accusing Rabat of threatening its national security due to its ties with Israel. Bouden says Algeria should applaud this relationship.

“In my opinion, there is no logic in what Algeria says, which wants to demonize a positive relationship for the sake of peace between Morocco and Israel by saying that it threatens its national security, knowing that it has closed its borders and cut ties with Morocco,” he said.

Bouden says the Moroccan-Israeli relations are a “purely sovereign” decision based on a “deep vision of opportunities, and a particular party should not consider it at the expense of its interests unless it insists on that.”

The two countries signed a security agreement on Wednesday making it easier for Rabat to obtain high-tech exports from Israel’s defense industry.

“We have here what the French call ‘ménage à trois,’ we have three sides cooperating: Israel, Morocco and the US. The US gives clearance for all arms sale,” Ben-Simon said, adding that Morocco is being helped by Israel in all of its dealings with the Americans.

“Israel in a way is the representative of Morocco to the US,” he said.

When the Al-Quds Committee was formed in 1975 by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), it was decided to give the chair to the then-King of Morocco, Hassan II. After his death in 1999, the chair was passed on to his son King Mohammed V.

The Bayt Mal Al Quds Agency, a standing sub-committee of Al-Quds Committee, was an initiative of King Hassan II that was accepted by the OIC in December 1995 and officially commenced its activities in July 1998.

Israel in a way is the representative of Morocco to the US

This was supposed to help the Palestinians in Jerusalem, but Ben-Simon says Moroccans have now, in a way, left the Palestinians by themselves. “They can go to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, but they are saying: ‘leave us alone we have our own interests to worry about,’” he said.

“Moroccans came to a conclusion, which is that what Morocco can do with the Americans and Israelis is sometimes more beneficial,” he said.

Bouden, on the other hand, says the kingdom will continue to play a “positive” role between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The king will put his weight in the service of coexistence and peace. I think that highlighting the priority of peace is much better than sticking to stagnation and estrangement. The agency of Bayt Mal al-Quds is a great work in favor of the Jerusalemites. He will put his weight in the service of coexistence and peace,” he said.

 

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