Israel-Morocco deal follows a history of clandestine cooperation


Normalization shouldn’t come as a surprise – the unofficial ties between Israel and Morocco have been around for decades.

News of Morocco’s normalization with Israel makes it the fourth Arab country in three months to agree to a deal brokered by the United States to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, on the heels of agreements similar agreements concluded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan.

What sets Morocco apart from the other three are the deep historical ties – spanning more than six decades – that the North African kingdom has with the Jewish state.

Although Moroccan authorities have historically played down any relationship, commercial ties have existed for nearly 60 years in the areas of military and intelligence, technology and agriculture.

Carmiel Arbit, a non-resident senior researcher in the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs, said:

“The announcement is not surprising: ties between Israel and Morocco have been relatively strong for decades. Morocco was once a hub of Jewish life in the region and the king has increasingly embraced Moroccan Jewish heritage, appointing senior Jewish advisers to his government and, more recently, incorporating Moroccan Jewish history into school programs.

“There is already more than $ 30 million in annual trade between the two countries, tens of thousands of Israelis come to Morocco every year, and Israelis in Morocco can already retain Moroccan nationality. “

Between 2014 and 2017, the two engaged in trade worth $ 149 million, making Morocco one of Israel’s top four African trading partners.

One of Israel’s first overt foreign investments in the Arab world took place in 2017, when Israeli agricultural tech giant Netafim established a $ 2.9 million subsidiary in Morocco.

According to a report released just hours after its normalization, Morocco is on the verge of reaching a deal to purchase advanced drones from the United States, suggesting a possible link to advancing arms sales with Morocco’s move. to normalize its relations with Israel.

Earlier this year, Rabat received three Israeli reconnaissance drones as part of a $ 48 million deal.

The growing concern of the Moroccan people, whose support for the Palestinian cause has been unwavering, has led to public challenges to growing trends towards normalization in recent years.

During this time, cultural and people-to-people bonds remained strong.

Alongside African, Andalusian and Mediterranean influences, the revised Moroccan constitution of 2011 affirms that national unity has been enriched by its “Hebrew heritage”.

The country is still home to the largest Jewish community in the Arab world, numbering around 2,000.

According to Claire Spencer, senior researcher in the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, “Morocco values ​​its international Jewish relations” and is probably “the only Arab state to have a roving ambassador for Jewish affairs, Serge Berdugo”.

Indeed, the links between the Moroccan Jewish diaspora and the country remain strong.

Each year, some 50,000 Moroccan Jews come to visit the country and it is common to have hotels entirely reserved for Moroccan Jews at Easter, as well as for weddings.

Historical links

When King Hassan II of Morocco took power in 1961, the Israelis embarked on a very successful effort to cultivate it. After Israeli agents integrated with opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka, they informed Hassan of a plot to overthrow him.

From that moment, years of covert security cooperation would be ushered in.

The king then authorized the wing of the Israeli secret service, the Mossad, to establish a station in Morocco. Tel Aviv provided weapons and trained Moroccans to use them, organized the Moroccan intelligence service, and provided surveillance technology. Spies from both countries are also engaged in information sharing.

In 1965, when Arab leaders and military commanders met in Casablanca, Morocco allowed the Mossad to wiretap their meetings and private residences – informing Israelis of information that would become vital before the 1967 war.

General Shlomo Gazit, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, claimed that these secret recordings of discussions about Arab leaders in the run-up to the Six Day War were crucial in revealing how divided and unprepared the Arabs were to the war.

The Mossad then helped lure Moroccan opposition leader Barka to Paris at the behest of Moroccan intelligence services, where he was kidnapped and tortured to death.

In the run-up to the Camp David accords of 1978, King Hassan and his government became the secondary channel for secret meetings between Egyptian and Israeli officials, before normalization between former political enemies.

During the 1980s, when King Hassan II appeared to make a move towards normalization with Israel, he faced a powerful backlash from Moroccans and the Arab world, ultimately forcing him to reverse his attempt. and to quietly maintain bilateral collaboration.

Israel’s historic relationship with Morocco could be viewed through the prism of its grand strategy known as the “Periphery Doctrine,” which was put forward by then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his advisers. in a search for regional allies against the “Arab core” (initially understood as a coalition of states led by Egypt).

These allies have been both countries and ethnic or religious minorities within countries and have on several occasions included Turkey, the Shah’s Iran, Ethiopia, Sudan – as well as Morocco.

The doctrine was primarily adopted by the Israeli intelligence community and eventually internalized into Tel Aviv’s strategic thinking.

Source: TRT World

About Wesley V. Finley

Check Also

Babka, borsch… and pumpkin spices? Two writers discuss Jewish identity through contemporary cookbooks.

Druckman: I wanted him to have a bit more…gravitas isn’t the right word, but something …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.