image Photo: Ariel Hermoni (IMoD)

Israel, Morocco sign historic Defense MOU

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz signed a groundbreaking defense Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Moroccan Minister Delegate to the Head of Government in Charge of National Defense, His Excellency Abdellatif Loudiyi.

By Erin Viner

The agreement “is a very significant development which will enable us to work on joint projects and promote industrial cooperation,” said Minister Gantz just after the signing, expressing intent that, “Relations between Israel and Morocco should be expanded and enhanced.”

The agreement “provides a solid framework that formalizes defense relations between the countries and establishes a foundation that will support any future cooperation,” according to a statement TV7 obtained from the Israeli Defense Minister’s International Media Advisor, which added that the deal will enable the security establishments of both nations to collaborate in the intelligence, industry, military and additional sectors.

“The parties expressed satisfaction with the opportunity to further enhance relations between Israel and Morocco since the signing of the Abraham Accords, and showed optimism at the many possibilities for cooperation that the new defense MOU will bring to both nations,” said the statement.

Morocco became the 6th Arab League nation to normalize relations with Israel nearly a year ago on 22 December 2020, following similar pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in September and Sudan in October 2020. The first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel was Egypt in 1979, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1994.

Both sides have already reaped benefits from increased economic cooperation, bilateral tourism and warm interpersonal relations. The MOU signing came on the first day of Minister Gantz’ official state visit to the Kingdom, where he expressed gratitude to Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Minister Loudiyi for supporting the expansion of ties.

Israel’s top defense chief also held talks in the offices of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates, His Excellency Nasser Bourita and the Inspector General of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Belkhir El Farouk.

The leaders discussed the importance of enhanced bilateral cooperation due to developing threats in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), while Minister Gantz also emphasized the important role the Kingdom of Morocco can perform to maintain peace and stability in the region. They also acknowledged challenges faced by both nations in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism, border and aerial threats.

In addition, Minister Gantz toured the First Infantry Airborne Brigade of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, where he was hosted senior officials including the military’s Inspector General.

While paying respects at the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, Minister Gantz laid a ceremonial wreath and wrote a message to the nation of Morocco in the book of visitors. The passage inscribed by the Israeli leader paid tribute to Morocco’s rich history, culture and legacy; and welcomed the deepening relations between Jerusalem and Rabat.

Defense Minister Gantz used the occasion to underscore Israel’s hope for the establishment of normalization and peace accords with additional regional partners.

Highlights of the 2-day official visit were published in an opinion piece by Israeli Defense Minister Ganz published in the Moroccan “L’Observateur Du Maroc” magazine and the Arabic “Ahdath Maghrebia” newspaper, as listed in a statement issued by the Communications Office for the Minister of Defense:

In the article, Minister Gantz says: “One day, in the not-so-far future, I will sit in my living room with my grandchildren, and I will tell them the story of my visit to Morocco and about the day that we made history by establishing defense relations between our countries. I will tell them that although many associate Israeli-Moroccan ties with the groundbreaking Abraham Accords, our story began long ago – and it is entrenched in the heritage of the Moroccan Jewish community.”

He also tells an extraordinary story about His Majesty, King Mohammed VI: “The legacy of King Mohamed V resonates to this day. Last week, a Jewish man, Rabbi Elhadad and his loved ones visited the Kingdom in search of their Moroccan roots – much like many Israelis who visit the country, reconnecting with generations past. In a tragic incident, Rabbi Elhadad took a fatal fall. Local doctors fought to save his life – so much so that they consulted with His Majesty’s doctor. Despite their massive efforts, Rabbi Elhadad passed – may his memory be a blessing. Upon learning of this horrific accident, His Majesty, King Mohammed VI and his advisors reached out to the family and arranged a private aircraft to fly Rabbi Elhadad to be buried in Israel in a religious ritual. There was no press, no fanfare. His Majesty the King recognized that there is no greater “mitzvah” or holy act, than to tend for the deceased and to bury them in accordance with Jewish tradition at the earliest possible time.”

Minister Gantz touched on the expansion of normalization: “As the IDF Chief of the General Staff, I fought in dozens of military operations, but I never forgot that the most important battle of all is the battle for peace and stability. This can only be achieved if we stay strong, strengthen our relations with our allies. Considering the recent positive developments, I am confident that we will work with our Moroccan friends, and with the leadership of our great ally the United States, to strengthen Israel’s relations with Jordan, Egypt, the members of the Abraham Accords, new partners in the region as well as with our Palestinian neighbors.”

Minister Gantz touched on the importance of bilateral relations: “After years of informal cooperation for the prevention of terrorism, this week, we have taken a historic step in the ties between Israel and Morocco, formalizing our defense relations by signing a defense cooperation memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU establishes a framework from which we can develop cooperation in counterterrorism, intelligence-sharing, military training, professional working groups and industrial collaboration. More importantly, this agreement acknowledges our shared vision of peace and stability for our people, for the region, for the world.”

“Our partnership is vital against the challenges that threaten regional and global peace. Both our countries face the challenges of fundamentalist terrorism, border, and aerial threats. The framework that we have determined in the MOU, will provide us the means to cooperate in order to defend our nations.”

Minister Gantz also touched on Israel’s biggest security challenge: “The State of Israel is particularly concerned by Iran’s regional aggression and its nuclear aspirations. I am taking this opportunity to emphasize the importance for global action against Iran – as it is not just a challenge for Israel. It is first and foremost a global and regional challenge.”

Minister Gantz concluded the piece with a message for the future: “Israel and Morocco are celebrating the history of our shared communities. Our tourism is flourishing, and people-to-people relations are growing. Our economic cooperation is bearing fruit for both our nations. Now is the time to work together to counter developing threats, to ensure that our nations can prosper in peace and stability.”

Photo: Ariel Hermoni, IMoD