The Israeli Defense Minister is scheduled to travel to Morocco for a ‘historic’ visit.
Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, arrived in Morocco on Tuesday for a “historic” visit aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries at a time when Rabat and Tel Aviv are locked in a dispute over Western Sahara.
Morocco normalized relations with Israel less than a year ago, thanks to a deal mediated by former US President Donald Trump’s administration.
In exchange, Washington acknowledged the North African kingdom’s authority over the disputed Western Sahara region.
Gantz, the first Israeli defense minister to visit Morocco, has stated that he will sign “cooperation agreements” in the defense sector with Moroccan counterparts and “continue to enhance ties.”
The “historic” tour has to be “successful,” according to the former Israeli army chief.
His chartered El Al flight arrived in Rabat late Tuesday, ahead of a day and a half of meetings with Moroccan defense and foreign ministers, as well as a visit to a synagogue.
According to an AFP source acquainted with the trip, the goal is to “lay the groundwork for all future security cooperation between Israel and Morocco.”
“There has been some sort of cooperation up until now,” the person continued, “but this actually formalizes it.”
The visit takes place as tensions between Morocco and Algeria have lately risen over Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Rabat claims as part of its sovereign territory.
Algeria, which supports the Polisario Front for the Independence of Western Sahara, severed diplomatic ties with Morocco in August, citing “hostile conduct” — an allegation disputed by Rabat.
Algiers accused Rabat of killing three Algerian civilians on a desert highway earlier this month, prompting fears of escalation.
Last week, Polisario’s leader, Brahim Ghali, claimed the movement has decided to increase military actions.
The timing of Gantz’s visit and the signing of an MOU, according to Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, an Israeli expert on Morocco, was not coincidental.
“It’s probable that the Moroccans were the ones who were focused on this in the context of Moroccan-Algerian tensions,” he said.
“It appears to me that the Moroccans are the ones who are most eager to show everyone — their own public, their Algerian opponents, and the West — that their connection with Israel is expanding,” said the Tel Aviv University professor.
Morocco and Israel had already established low-level connections in 1993, but Rabat severed them in 2000, when the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, began.
Rabat normalized relations with the Jewish state in December, shortly after the UAE and Bahrain made similar pronouncements.
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