Israel and Morroco signed a defense agreement Wednesday as Defense Minister Benny Gantz made the first official visit to the North African kingdom by an Israeli defense official.
The memorandum of understanding was signed by Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi and sets a solid security cooperation framework that formalizes defense relations between the two countries, allowing for increased cooperation in the fields of intelligence, industrial collaboration, military training and more.
“We have just signed a defense cooperation MOU with Morocco. It is a very significant development, which will enable us to work on joint projects and promote industrial cooperation,” Gantz said, adding that “relations between Israel and Morocco should be expanded and enhanced.”
During the meeting between the two defense ministers, Gantz also reiterated the importance of enhanced bilateral cooperation in light of developing threats in the Middle East and North Africa and expressed hope that there would be more countries that would sign normalization agreements with Israel.
Israel’s defense ministry said that “the agreement is a significant step in the deepening relations of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco, which already benefit from increased economic cooperation, bilateral tourism, and warm people-to-people relations.”
At the signing ceremony, Gantz thanked Morroco’s King Muhammad VI and Loudiyi “for their efforts to strengthen and expand relations between the two countries,” read a statement from the defense ministry.
Ahead of meeting with Loudiyi, Gantz paid his respects at the tomb of Mohamed V, the grandfather of the reigning monarch along with members of the Israeli delegation and laid a ceremonial wreath.
Gantz later met with Morroco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates, H.E. Nasser Bourita and the Inspector General of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces, LT.-Gen. Belkhir El Farouk.
During the meetings, “the Ministers exchanged views on the regional security situation in the Middle East and North Africa, and highlighted the similar challenges that both countries face in the fight against fundamentalist terrorism, border and aerial threats,” the defense ministry said.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Gantz also visited the First Infantry Airborne Brigade, toured the base and met with senior military officials.
Israel and Morocco have had close economic, diplomatic, and military ties for years and according to a report in Haaretz, military ties between Israel and Morocco primarily involve intelligence cooperation and trade in arms.
In June, a Moroccan C-130 landed in Israel, marking the first time that an airforce platform belonging to the north African country landed in the Jewish State to take part in an international drill.
Jerusalem and Rabat reestablished ties under the Abraham Accords along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan and normalized ties last December.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Morocco in August and inaugurated the country’s mission in Rabat. During his two-day visit, Lapid met with his counterpart Nasser Bourita and handed him an invitation from President Isaac Herzog for King Mohammed VI to visit Israel.