Morocco and Israel on Wednesday concluded an “unprecedented” framework security cooperation agreement during a historic visit to Rabat by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, in the midst of tension between the Shereefian kingdom and Algeria.
Mr. Gantz, a former head of the Israeli army, was received early in the morning by the Minister Delegate in charge of the administration of Moroccan National Defense, Abdellatif Loudiyi.
They signed a memorandum of understanding which formally launches security cooperation “in all its aspects” (operational planning, purchasing, research and development, etc.) between the two countries, barely one year after the normalization of their relations, in the face of “threats and challenges in the region”, according to the Israeli side.
“This is a very important thing that will also allow us to exchange our opinions, launch joint projects and promote Israeli exports so far.”, a souligné M. Gantz.
The latter had previously laid a wreath at the Mohammed V mausoleum, which hosts the burial place of the father of Moroccan independence and that of his son Hassan II.
“We ask for their blessing and look to our common future – a time when the bond between our peoples deepens and our nations come together to offer a vision of shared peace,” wrote the Israeli minister on the guestbook.
Before his departure from Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening, he had mentioned “an important trip to Morocco which has a historic touch as it is the first formal visit by an (Israeli) Minister of Defense to this country”.
During this 48-hour trip, Mr. Gantz is also due to meet with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Wednesday.
Morocco and Israel established diplomatic relations in the early 1990s before Morocco ended it at the start of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising of the early 2000s.
Now allies in a tense regional context, they renewed relations in December 2020 as part of the “Abraham’s Agreements”, process of normalization of relations between the Hebrew state and Arab countries supported by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
On this occasion, Washington recognized the “full sovereignty” of Morocco on Western Sahara, territory disputed with the Saharawi separatists of the Polisario Front supported by Algeria.
Benny Gantz’s visit comes as Algiers severed relations with Rabat in August due to “hostile actions” of the kingdom and that the Polisario Front decided to “intensifier“his armed struggle against Morocco.
By meeting his counterpart Nasser Bourita in Washington on Monday, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, reiterated the strong support of the United States for Morocco on the question of Western Sahara.
For Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, specialist in Israeli-Moroccan relations at Tel Aviv University, Mr. Gantz’s visit to Morocco in the midst of tension between the two enemy brothers from the Maghreb could not be a pure coincidence.
“It is possible that in a context of Algeria / Morocco tension, Moroccans (….) wish to show the world – their own people, their Algerian rivals and the West – that they are deepening their relations with Israel , with all that that implies “, souligne M. Maddy-Weitzman.
The Hebrew state is one of the world’s leading exporters of armed drones and security software like NSO’s Pegasus.
However, sales of armed drones and some advanced technologies, such as spyware Pegasus, must be approved by the Ministry of Defense headed by Mr. Gantz.
Morocco categorically denies having purchased this software and has announced that it has filed complaints for “defamation“against media claiming that Rabat had used it to infiltrate the phones of several national and foreign public figures.
A pro-Palestinian coalition of left-wing parties and NGOs as well as the Islamists of the Justice and Beneficence movement called for a sit-in Wednesday afternoon in front of the parliament in Rabat to denounce the normalization with Israel and the arrival in Morocco of the “war criminal Gantz”, Chief of Staff during the deadly 2014 summer war in Gaza.
For Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Morocco has not abandoned the Palestinian cause, “but has many other interests, many other benefits to be derived from recalibration” of his relationships.