Israeli army chief makes first visit to Morocco
RABAT: Israel’s army chief arrived in Morocco on Monday for meetings with senior defence officials, military sources said, as cooperation between the countries expands following a normalisation of ties.
Aviv Kohavi’s three-day trip is the first official visit of an Israeli army chief to the North African kingdom.
Kohavi will meet Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of defence administration, Abdellatif Loudiyi, as well as the Inspector General of the Royal Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Belkhir El Farouk, and senior defence officials, an Israeli spokesman said.
Morocco had cut relations with Israel in 2000 following the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada, but re-established ties two decades later in a deal that saw Washington recognise Rabat’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.
Since then, a steady stream of Moroccan and Israeli officials have visited each others’ countries and signed cooperation deals in various fields.
They have included Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who on a visit to the kingdom in November last year signed a security agreement making it easier for Rabat to acquire high-tech exports from Israel’s defence industry.
Last month, Israeli military observers for the first time attended the annual “African Lion” military exercise — vast drills involving thousands of personnel from several nations, co-organised by Morocco and the United States.
And in March, an Israeli army delegation met with Moroccan officers in Rabat, in the first visit of its kind since the 2020 normalisation deal, signing a military cooperation agreement.
The North African kingdom’s mending of relations with Israel re-ignited its long-standing rivalry with Algeria, which in August last year cut diplomatic ties with Rabat.
Algiers cited “hostile acts” and Morocco’s relations — including on military and security issues — with “the Zionist entity”, referring to Israel.
Morocco considers the Western Sahara an integral part of the kingdom, while the Algeria-backed Polisario Front has long demanded an independence referendum there.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2022