RABAT, Morocco (dpa) – Israel and Morocco signed a groundbreaking agreement on Wednesday that lays the foundation for security cooperation, the exchange of information and future arms sales.
The MoU is at the heart of a visit this week by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to Morocco, which established formal relations with Israel last year under the US-brokered Abraham Agreement.
Gantz’s trip marks the first official visit by an Israeli defense minister to any of the Arab states that has normalized relations under the agreements.
In a statement, Gantz said the deal is “very significant and will allow us to exchange ideas, enter into joint projects and facilitate Israeli military exports here”.
The agreement was signed during a meeting between Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Loudiyi, in Rabat, attended by military attaches and two Israeli MPs. Gantz also met with the Moroccan military chief of staff and was greeted by a colored guard of soldiers in red tunics, blue trousers, and shiny gold epaulets.
Before meeting Loudiyi, Gantz paid his respects at the tomb of Mohamed V, the grandfather of the ruling monarch.
Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration.
Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic ties in the 1990s, but Morocco broke them after a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. Nevertheless, the two states maintain informal relations. Almost half a million Israelis claim Moroccan heritage – more than 200,000 immigrated to Israel after the state was founded in 1948 – and thousands visit the country every year.
There is still a small Jewish community in Morocco, and Rabat still has a synagogue that Gantz will visit at the end of his two-day trip.
In return for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel, the Trump administration promised in December 2020 to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed North African territory. The announcement shook decades of US policy and the international consensus that the status of Western Sahara should be settled by a UN referendum.
Since then, the Biden government has cautiously withdrawn this recognition.
The Abraham Agreement broke a long-standing consensus among Arab states that normalization with Israel would only take place within the framework of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is for this reason that the Palestinians view the agreements as treason that has undermined their influence with Israel.
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