The official visit of IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi to Morocco marks the first time that Israel’s top military officer has visited the country. Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman has this useful summary of the milestones in the military alliance being built between Israel and Morocco.
Considering the strategic importance of Morocco, due to where it is situated, its historic ties to the US; and its historic ties to the Muslim world as well as the Jewish community; Israel-Morocco ties are already clearly of great importance. However, when it comes to pressing issues such as the Iranian threat, Morocco does not seem to hold the same level of focus as Israel’s work with US Central Command and also the Gulf states. That means that when we look at the recent US Presidential visit or the recent US Central Command meetings with Israel, the focus is the more immediate neighborhood.
Nevertheless, it is worth reviewing some of the high-level visits and ties that have emerged since December 2020.These visits illustrate how Israel and Morocco are rushing to build on their public relationship.
Recent developing ties include several important steps. There was the Moroccan participation in an exercise alongside eight countries that also included Israel’s Lotar counter-terrorism school.
There was the November 2021 signing of an MOU as part of Defense Minister Benny Gantz traveling to Morocco. By March, Israel and Morocco had established direct public military ties through the visit of the head of the strategic planning and cooperation directorate.
In June, there was a visit by a Royal Moroccan Armed Forces representative to Israel, and Israel participated in the African Lion exercise in June as well.
African Lion 2022 included the head of the Middle East and North Africa Division of the Policy and Political-Military Bureau in the Israel Defense Ministry, who Israel says also serves as the defense attaché to Morocco, as well as two IDF officers who went to view the drill.
“The ‘African Lion 2022’ exercise, led by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR), is the largest annual exercise held by both armies in Africa,” Israel noted at the time.
The Defense Ministry said “Israel’s participation in the [Africa Lion] exercise is an additional step in strengthening the security relations between the two countries’ defense ministries and militaries. In addition, it constitutes a continuation of the FAR’s Counterterrorism Unit’s participation in the multinational exercise, which was held in Israel last year.”
It should be noted also that Morocco is part of the Negev Summit committee. The most recent meeting of that group was in late June as well. That group includes Israel, Bahrain, the US, the UAE, Egypt, and Morocco.
When Gantz hosted an Iftar dinner in April, the event included the Abraham Accords countries representatives, including Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco Abderrahim Bayoud.
“I have been communicating with the leaders of your countries,” Gantz said. “Israel values freedom of worship, and we will do everything in our capacity to enable it, while an extremist group – the minority – aims to harm it. It is important for us that this message is brought to the leaders of your countries. You are aware of the reality on the ground, and it is important to reflect it to the leaders of your countries.”