Morocco-Israel: First steps towards promising joint projects

After the resumption of Israel-Moroccan ties, both parties began to engage in joint reflections on the first potential common projects, keenly awaiting pioneering achievements to be a guiding light.

Morocco-Israel (Illustrative)  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Morocco-Israel (Illustrative)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As stipulated in the Joint Declaration that formalized - on December 22 - the resumption of relations between Morocco and Israel, the two countries are committed to promoting dynamic and innovative bilateral economic cooperation. Hence, various sectors, including trade, finance, investment, innovation and technology, civil aviation, and tourism, have been specifically mentioned to fulfill the dynamic unleashed by this initiative. Other areas, namely agriculture, water, and food security, in addition to energy and telecommunications, are just as essential.
A little over a month after this major announcement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, and Moroccans Abroad spoke over the phone with Israel’s National Security Advisor. For Nasser Bourita and Meir Ben Shabbat, the focus has been on establishing working groups so that sectoral agreements could be concluded in a timely fashion.
In order to move forward, a Moroccan delegation visited Tel Aviv on Tuesday, February 9, to formalize the opening of the Moroccan liaison office in Israel, braving all the travel complications that come with Covid-19 measures. Likewise, an official Israeli delegation is expected in Morocco in the coming days.
Similarly, Nasser Bourita spoke for the first time, on February 2, with his Israeli counterpart. Gabi Ashkenazi described his first conversation with Bourita in a warm and friendly tweet. “We agreed to work together to quickly implement the agreements between Morocco and Israel,” revealed the Israeli official.
It is clear that on both the Moroccan and Israeli sides, there is a strong commitment to see the first joint projects brought to life. These are not only eagerly awaited by the business community, but they will also serve as ice-breakers in the business sector, particularly given that priority areas have already been identified.
Industry
Moroccan and Israeli officials intend to make the development of joint industrial projects a driving force of the Morocco-Israel win-win partnership. An initial short-list of focus industries has already been established.
Less than a week after the official resumption of Morocco-Israel relations, the Moroccan minister of industry, trade, green technology, and digital economy and the Israeli minister of economy and industry held a videoconference. On this occasion, Amir Peretz immediately broke the ice when he started the call addressing Moulay Hafid Elalamy in “darija” (Moroccan dialect).
The two officials identified several industrial sectors with strong partnership potential, including textiles, agro-industry, research and development (R&D) applied to industry, green technologies, and renewable energies, the ministry said in a statement.
A joint task force was then formed - as agreed by the two ministers – to develop an action plan in the identified sectors.
To speed up the implementation process, Peretz and Elalamy held a call on January 20. 
The two ministers then reviewed the progress made by the established task force. Further meetings are planned to advance the bilateral industrial partnership. Will we see a first Moroccan-Israeli industrial unit taking shape?
Sources familiar with the matter told L’Observateur du Maroc that the implementation of such projects takes time but that everything is being done to encourage joint private initiatives.
Tourism
The opening of a direct air service between Morocco and Israel is a first step towards developing tourism between the two countries.
On January 21, the same day that Benjamin Netanyahu announced the closure of Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Morocco and Israel signed an agreement allowing direct flight routes between the two countries. The Israeli foreign ministry announced the deal on Facebook. “The trip will only take five hours,” he said. We then learned that the agreement will allow direct flights between Israel and all of Morocco’s international airports, with no restrictions on the number of companies or the frequency of flights per week.
By way of reminder, the day after the announcement of the resumption of Morocco-Israel relations, the minister of tourism, air transport, handicrafts, and social economy announced that regular air routes between Morocco and Israel would be established within three months.
Speaking on December 23 during the 23rd edition of “Mardis du Tourisme,” Nadia Fettah Alaoui stated, at the same time, that the annual number of Jewish visitors of Moroccan who visit  Morocco ranges between 40,000 and 50,000. In order to boost these figures, the minister announced that a survey is being conducted to understand and study the Israeli market, mobilizing operators from both countries to better identify the specificities and prerequisites of the two markets. “We are also working towards this goal with a number of associations in order to train and prepare more tourist guides,” she added.
It should be noted that similarly, a memorandum of understanding was signed on December 22, during the visit of the high-level American-Israeli delegation, in the field of civil aviation by Zakaria Belghazi, director general of civil aviation at the ministry of tourism, handicrafts, air transport, and social economy and Joel Feldschuh, director of the Civil aviation agency. The purpose of this document is to ensure the conclusion of an air services agreement.
Agriculture
The Israeli market looks very promising for Moroccan fruit and vegetable exporters. While studies are underway to identify the needs, farm producers have already expressed their interest in Israeli agri-food tech.
“The Israeli market is of great interest to us. In the years to come, it could become a considerable part of our fruit and vegetable exports, du Maroc Lahoucine Aderdour, head of the Moroccan interprofessional federation for fruits and vegetables production and export of (FIFEL) told L’Observateur. He added that “studies are underway to identify the needs on the Israeli market and measure the potential for trade development.”
For their part, farm producers are said to be interested in Israeli technologies in the agriculture sector. Indeed, Israel’s agricultural sector has long been based on science-linked technology, ensuring that its farmers benefit from its research centers’ innovation. Israeli agronomists employ innovative drip irrigation methods. They are at the forefront of agricultural biotechnology, soil disinfection by solarization, and intensive treatment of industrial effluents for irrigation. The country boasts 50% of the world’s total irrigation market. “These technological breakthroughs are very interesting for the agricultural sector in Morocco. A collaboration in this area will allow producers to increase their productivity and the quality of their product range”, said Lahoucine Aderdour, who informed us that contacts would be soon made with Israeli companies to establish a framework for cooperation in this area.
Startups
The France-Israel Chamber of Commerce (CCIIF) is pushing for the creation of Morocco-Israel-France triangular projects. This is one of the main objectives the Chamber wants to achieve through the Israel-Morocco Commission that it launched on February 1, in the presence of ambassadors, ex-ministers, industry leaders, consultants, and experts, as reported by IsraelValley.com.
In this perspective, the CCIIF has initiated the incubator “IsraMaroc,” aiming to enable young Moroccan and Israeli entrepreneurs to develop startups. It is scheduled to be launched on March 10, 2021, in Tel Aviv at the Urban Place coworking facilities. The event will be attended by 60 entrepreneurs and businesspeople. The selected startups will be incubated free of charge for six months. The announcement of the first winners will take place on May 25, 2021, in the presence of world business leaders. The sectors that will be given primary focus are health, energy, and “Tech for Good.”
https://lobservateur.info/maroc-israel-premiers-pas-vers-des-projets-communs-porteurs/