Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, center, visits the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 24 2021. Israel and Morocco signed a landmark agreement Wednesday that lays the foundation for security cooperation, intelligence sharing, and future arms sales. (AP Photo/Ilan Ben Zion)

ISRAEL and Morocco signed a landmark agreement Wednesday that lays the foundation for security cooperation, intelligence sharing and future arms sales.

The memorandum of understanding was the centerpiece of a visit this week by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to Morocco, which established formal relations with Israel last year as part of the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords.

Gantz’s trip is the first official visit by an Israeli defense minister to one of the Arab states that normalized ties under the accords.

In a statement, Gantz said that the agreement was “very significant and will allow us to exchange ideas, enter joint projects and enable Israeli military exports here.”

The agreement was signed during a meeting between Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi in Rabat, with military attaches and two Israeli parliament members in attendance. Gantz also met with the Moroccan military chief of staff, and was greeted by a color guard of soldiers clad in red tunics, blue slacks and gleaming gold epaulets.

Ahead of his meeting with Loudiyi, Gantz paid his respects at the tomb of Mohamed V, the grandfather of the reigning monarch.

About a dozen people staged a demonstration against the visit and normalization with Israel in central Rabat. The protest was quickly dispersed.

Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the Trump administration.

Israel and Morocco enjoyed low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco severed them after a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. Despite that, the two states have maintained informal relations. Nearly half a million Israelis claim Moroccan heritage — more than 200,000 immigrated to Israel after the founding of the state in 1948 — and thousands visit the country each year.

Morocco is still home to a small Jewish community, and Rabat has one remaining synagogue, where Gantz will visit at the close of his two-day trip.

In exchange for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel, the Trump administration promised in December 2020 to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed north African territory. The announcement upset decades of U.S. policy and international consensus that Western Sahara’s status should be settled by a U.N. referendum.

Since then, the Biden administration has cautiously walked back that recognition.

The Abraham Accords broke a longstanding consensus among Arab states that normalization with Israel only take place as part of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because of that, the Palestinians view the agreements as a betrayal that eroded their leverage with Israel.

  • AP
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