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Israel, Morocco Strengthen Ties by Signing Bilateral Trade Agreement
Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai (L) and her Moroccan counterpart Ryad Mezzour (R) sign economy and trade agreements during their meeting in Rabat, Morocco on Feb. 21, 2022. (Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Israel, Morocco Strengthen Ties by Signing Bilateral Trade Agreement

‘It’s a strategic issue. The relationship is getting very close, very quickly, and very businesslike, former MK says

Israel and Morocco are moving forward with strengthening trade ties to nearly quadruple their annual trade to more than $500 million.

“The annual level of economic and commercial exchange between the two countries, which today amounts to $130 million, must very quickly reach $500 million … and go beyond that,” visiting Israeli Economy Minister Orna Barbivai told journalists in Rabat.

Barbivai concluded her four-day visit on Wednesday, highlighting the rapid efforts to expand cooperation between the two countries since they normalized ties in late 2020.

The trade agreement comes three months after Israel and Morocco signed a defense deal to deepen security ties, more freely share intelligence and hold joint exercises.

The new agreement aims to deepen economic ties, expand trade and encourage investment between the countries.

Daniel Ben-Simon, a former member of Israel’s parliament who was born in Meknes, Morocco in 1954 and moved to Israel in 1969, told The Media Line that even before signing a normalization accord, there was a “natural rapprochement.”

Ben-Simon attributes the rapid progress in the ties to the more than one million Moroccan Jews who live in Israel.

“That’s what makes it different from any other relationship with Arab countries that Israel has ties with.”

He adds that the ties between the two countries aren’t only about economics, “it’s a strategic issue. The relationship is getting very close, very quickly, and very businesslike.

“The frequent visits by Israeli ministers and officials mean the level of closeness and friendliness between the two countries is quite high,” he says.

The two countries can offer each other a lot in many areas, including in the fields of trade, gas, agriculture, and the military, Ben-Simon says.

Mohamed Bouden, head of the Atlas Center for the Analysis of Political and Institutional Indicators, told The Media Line Barbivai’s visit means that “the Kingdom of Morocco is an important country for Israel.”

The visit represents “another building block to the path of building relations between the two countries in its economic aspect, especially tourism, aviation, investment and the development of the legal framework for industrial and technical cooperation, and the exchange of visits and training in the military and intelligence fields,” Bouden says.

It comes amid reports that Israel’s NewMed Energy (founded in 1993 as “Delek Drilling,” a subsidiary of the Delek Group) is looking to join the exploration sector in Morocco after it developed natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean that supply Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, according to the company’s chief executive.

“The Kingdom of Morocco will benefit from the Israeli experience in the military industry and cyber matters, in addition to benefiting from energy and gas exploration methods, to reflect positively on the country’s vital interests and to ensure peace and security in the region,” says Bouden.

Last November, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz became the first in his post and the second high-ranking government official to visit Rabat, 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.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan in normalizing ties with Israel in 2020, with the support of then-US President Donald Trump. Trump 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.

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