IAF chief wraps up first official trip to Morocco, in sign of growing defense ties

After visiting Moroccan airbase, Tomer Bar says the two air forces will ‘strengthen partnerships,’ hold joint air exercises

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar meets with his Morrocan counterpart, Gen. El Abed Alaoui Bouhamid in Morocco, February 22, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar meets with his Morrocan counterpart, Gen. El Abed Alaoui Bouhamid in Morocco, February 22, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The chief of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, wrapped up a first official visit to Morocco on Friday, another sign of growing defense ties between Israel and the North African nation.

After landing on Tuesday, Bar met with his counterpart, Gen. El Abed Alaoui Bouhamid, and visited the Ben Guerir Air Force Base, near the city of the same name, as well as the Moroccan Air Force headquarters and academy, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said Bar and Bouhamid “welcomed the strengthening of the existing cooperation between the two armies and discussed key military issues, including the air defense, team exchanges, and joint aerial exercises.”

“This is an exciting moment,” Bar said in remarks provided by the IDF, hailing Morocco for having “one of the most professional and advanced air forces.”

“We will act and advance cooperation and common interests, we will strengthen partnerships in training and knowledge for the benefit of maintaining regional stability,” he added.

Israel and Morocco established low-level diplomatic relations during the 1990s following Israel’s interim peace accords with the Palestinians, but those ties were suspended after the outbreak in 2000 of the Second Intifada.

A breakthrough took place 20 years later when the Trump administration agreed to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region in exchange for Rabat agreeing to normalize relations with Israel. Morocco was the third country to join what was dubbed as the Abraham Accords, following the leads of the UAE and Bahrain.

Despite opposition from some sectors of the Moroccan public, ties have since continued to develop.

In November 2021, then-defense minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

The agreement formalized the defense ties between the two countries, allowing for smoother cooperation between their defense establishments and making it easier for Israel to sell arms to the North African kingdom.

With the signing of the MOU, the two countries’ defense ministries and militaries could more easily speak with one another and share intelligence, whereas before, such communication was only possible through their respective intelligence services.

Last July, then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi held a first official visit to Morocco, also meeting with air force officials.

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