Foreign Ministry probes sexual abuse allegations at Israel’s new Morocco mission

Senior officials fly to Rabat to investigate a series of charges of sexual and financial improprieties

Tal Schneider is a Political Correspondent at The Times of Israel

Israel’s new chargé d’affaires to Morocco David Govrin (Courtesy)
Israel’s new chargé d’affaires to Morocco David Govrin (Courtesy)

A senior Foreign Ministry delegation has flown to Morocco to investigate allegations of a slew of sexual and financial improprieties at the newly opened Israeli mission in Rabat, including charges that a senior official sexually exploited several local women.

Details of the investigation, first reported Monday by the Kan public broadcaster, were confirmed to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, by the ministry.

Ministry Inspector General Hagay Behar was rushed to Morocco last week after allegations were leveled at the head of the mission, David Govrin, regarding serious complaints about the functioning of the mission, which opened last year.

The most serious complaint was that “a senior Israeli official” at the mission had sexually exploited several local women, something that could lead to a severe diplomatic incident with Morocco. There were also complaints of sexual harassment within the mission.

The ministry is also investigating a range of financial and administrative problems, including the disappearance of a very valuable gift sent by the king of Morocco on the occasion of Israel’s Independence Day. Such gifts have to be registered and turned over to the government, but the item appears to have disappeared with no record.

They were also investigating reports that a local businessman and Jewish community leader, identified as Samy Cohen, a friend of Govrin, was involved in hosting several Israeli ministers, including Yair Lapid, Ayelet Shaked and Gideon Sa’ar, and initiating meetings between them and local officials, even though he was not in any way officially affiliated with the mission.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, center, with envoy to Morocco David Govrin, left, and Jewish community leader Samy Cohen, June 20, 2022. (screen capture: Instagram)

The team were also investigating a reported feud between Govrin and the mission’s security officer.

Morocco became the third Arab state to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals in 2020, joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Israel’s liaison office in Rabat had been closed in late 2000, when Morocco decided to call off the existing low-level ties between the two countries with the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Though the countries’ liaison offices were closed some 20 years ago, the properties remained in their respective possessions, allowing Jerusalem and Rabat to rapidly reopen them.

Initially, Morocco and Israel will maintain liaison offices in one another’s countries but plan to establish full embassies in the future.

Recent months have seen a series of top-level visits by Israeli officials to Morocco and the two countries have signed a host of economic, cultural and defense cooperation agreements.

Govrin, 58, is considered a senior and experienced diplomat and has served at the ministry since 1989. He speaks fluent Arabic, and served as the ambassador to Egypt from 2016 to August 2020.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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