Israeli Occupation defense minister heads to Morocco for 'historic' visit


Published: 2021-11-23 21:55

Last Updated: 2022-05-16 19:17

Credit: AFP
Credit: AFP

Israeli Occupation's Defense Minister Benny Gantz departed for Morocco Tuesday on a "historic" visit aimed at bolstering ties between the countries, at a time when Rabat is embroiled in a standoff over Western Sahara.

The two-day trip comes less than a year after Morocco normalized ties with Israel in a deal brokered by former US president Donald Trump's administration.

In return, Washington recognized the North African kingdom's sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Before departing, Gantz said he would sign defense "cooperation agreements" with Moroccan counterparts and "continue to strengthen ties.”

Gantz said it was crucial that the "historic" trip proved "successful.”

The trip aims to "set the foundation for all future security cooperation between the Israeli [Occupation] and Morocco", a source familiar with the visit told AFP.
"Until now there has been some level of cooperation; this truly formalises it," the source added.

Morocco controls most of Western Sahara and considers the former Spanish colony part of its sovereign territory.

Tensions have recently flared between Morocco and Algeria, which backs Western Sahara's Polisario Front independence movement.

Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco in August, citing "hostile actions" -- a charge denied by Rabat.

Earlier this month, Algiers accused Rabat of killing three Algerian civilians on a desert highway, raising fears of an escalation.

And Polisario head Brahim Ghali said last week the movement had decided to step up military operations.

- Timing 'not coincidental' -

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, an Israeli Occupation expert on Morocco, said the timing of Gantz's visit and the signing of an MOU were not a coincidence.

"It's possible that in the context of the Moroccan-Algerian tensions, the Moroccans were the ones who were keen on this," he said.

"It would seem to me that the Moroccans are the ones who are keen on showing everybody –- their own public, their Algerian rivals, the West -- that they are deepening their relationship with the Israeli [Occupation]," said the Tel Aviv University professor.

Morocco and the Israeli Occupation previously set up low-level ties in 1993 but Rabat broke them off at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in 2000.

Rabat normalized ties with the Jewish state last December, shortly after similar announcements by the UAE and Bahrain.