In late November, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco to formalize military cooperation between both countries with the signing of a memorandum of understanding. Gantz’s trip came a year after Morocco normalized its diplomatic relations with Israel and follows a previous visit by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Rabat in August.
The existence of military ties between Israel and Morocco is not new, but their acknowledgement of them is. The very public presence of Gantz in Rabat demonstrated Morocco’s desire not only to recognize Israel but to use the rapprochement to balance Algeria in the context of heightened tensions with its North African neighbor. But that may put Israel at the mercy of the volatile security environment in the Maghreb.
Military exchanges between Israel and Morocco predate the recent wave of normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states that began in the concluding months of the Trump administration. Starting in the 1960s, then-Moroccan King Hassan II, the father of current monarch Muhammad VI, relied on Israeli support to counter security threats from Algeria and Egypt. In 1963, when war broke out between Morocco and Algeria—which was supported at the time by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser—Israeli intelligence shared information on Egyptian military moves with their Moroccan counterparts. Since then, it is believed that every director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency visited Morocco at one point or another during their tenure. Meanwhile, Israel sold arms and provided training to Moroccan ground forces in the 1970s.