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Gantz to Head to Morocco in First Official Visit to Sign Defense Deal

November 16, 2021

by: Kate Norman

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The flags of Israel and Morocco

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 | Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is making his first official visit to Morocco on November 24 to sign defense agreements with the north African kingdom, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced yesterday.

The former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff will meet next week with the Moroccan defense minister as well as the Moroccan foreign minister, the Times of Israel reported.

Gantz’s first official visit follows the high-profile visit of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Morocco in August. Lapid visited the capital of Rabat to inaugurate the Israeli liaison office there.

Lapid’s trip was the first high-level Israeli visit to the north African nation after the two countries established diplomatic ties following the Abraham Accords last year. The previous high-profile Israeli visit to Morocco took place in 2003 by then-Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

The US-brokered Abraham Accords saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalize ties with Israel in an official agreement signed on the White House lawn in September 2020. Morocco and Sudan followed suit shortly afterward.

Israel and Morocco previously established ties, albeit low-key, in 1993 after the Oslo Accords—but the agreement came to a crashing halt after the Second Intifada in 2000, with Morocco shutting down its liaison offices and slamming the door on Moroccan–Israeli ties. Cooperation and relations between the two states remained under the table until the 2020 accords.

Still, Morocco was reportedly hesitant to resume full diplomatic ties with Israel until it received assurance that the new administration in Washington DC would not backtrack on former US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the western Sahara—part of the deal struck in order to draw Morocco into the Abraham Accords fold.

Morocco holds a dear place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who claim Moroccan ancestry. The kingdom hosted a significant Jewish population until the State of Israel was reborn in 1948 and an estimated 300,000 Moroccan Jews immigrated to their ancient homeland.

An estimated 3,000-strong Jewish population still remains in Morocco.

The defense cooperation agreements to be signed during Gantz’s visit next week are the latest in a series of steps forward in warming relations between Israel and Morocco.

The countries are also working to jump-start tourism between their nations, particularly after Israel opened its doors to vaccinated tourists in November.

Direct flights between Casablanca and Tel Aviv are set to start in December with Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc airline. Israeli airlines El Al and Israir launched direct flights to Morocco in July.

Posted on November 16, 2021

Source: (Bridges for Peace, November 16, 2021)

Photo Credit: wisegie/ and TheDigitalArtist/

Photo License: Flickr

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