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Israel becomes first-time observer at US-led military exercise in Morocco

Israeli involvement was another sign of growing ties with Morocco

IDF officers in an observer role at U.S.-led international military exercise held in Morocco (Photo: Royal Moroccan Forces)

A year and a half after Morocco signed the Abraham Accords normalization agreement with Israel, the Jewish state was invited for the first time to watch a U.S.-led international military exercise held in Morocco this past week.

Israel’s defense attaché to Morocco and two officers of the Israel Defense Forces were among the observers of the the “African Lion 2022” drill, held June 6 to 30. The defense attaché also serves as the head of the Israel Defense Ministry’s Middle East and North Africa Division at the Policy and Political-Military Bureau.

“Israel’s participation in the exercise is an additional step in strengthening the security relations between the two countries’ defense ministries and militaries,” said the Israeli Ministry of Defense spokesperson in a statement.

The United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, was at the helm of what amounts to the largest annual exercise for both the U.S. and Morocco, spanning four countries –Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia, which does not have formal ties with Israel.

According to AFRICOM, military personnel from Brazil, Chad, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom took part.

This March, the IDF sent their first formal delegation to Morocco, with Tal Kelman, the IDF major general in charge of Iranian affairs; Effie Defrin, the military’s International Cooperation Division head; and G., a brigadier general and the Military Intelligence Directorate’s special operations division commander. 

These top commanders met with the chief of the Moroccan military, Belkhir El Farouk, and the heads of Morocco’s intelligence and operations divisions.

“Opportunities for military collaborations were discussed, both training and in the operational and intelligence areas,” the IDF said at the time.

Earlier, in November, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited Morocco to meet with his Moroccan counterpart, Abdellatif Loudiyi, and sign a memorandum of understanding to formalize defense ties between the two nations. 

In so doing, the defense ministers made it easier for binational cooperation on defense issues, with communication and the sharing of intelligence, and with the possibility of Israeli arms sales to Morocco.

“We have just now signed an agreement for military cooperation – with all that that implies – with the nation of Morocco,” Gantz said at the time. “This is a highly significant event that will allow us to enter into joint projects and allow Israeli [defense] exports to [Morocco].” 

“I think the ties between Morocco and Israel need to continue to get closer, to continue to develop and expand, and I am glad that we have a part to play in that,” he said. 

With a photo showing the IDF representatives among other international uniforms, the Royal Moroccan Forces tweeted support for Israel’s attendance at the “African Lion 2022” military exercise. 

“For the first time in the history of the African Lion exercise … the Israeli army participated with a military delegation as an observer. #StrongerTogether” the tweet said.

Several cooperation agreements between Morocco and Israel have been signed, not just on military or security issues, but also regarding technology and trade.

“The security and defense ties between the countries are part of a wide and well-developed range of connections in the fields of economy, culture, education, athletics, and more,” said the Defense Ministry spokesperson after the “African Lion 2022” drill.

In late June, Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced that the two nations had forged an agreement over a pilot project, to bring Moroccans to work in Israel’s construction and nursing sectors.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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