Israel appoints first military attaché to Morocco

Col. Sharon Itach, of Moroccan origin, selected by IDF chief as defense ties with North African nation grow

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

Col. Sharon Itach, head of the Home Front Command's Haifa district in an undated official photo. (Israel Defense Forces)
Col. Sharon Itach, head of the Home Front Command's Haifa district in an undated official photo. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday appointed a first military attaché to Morocco, as security ties between Israel and the North African nation continue to grow following a normalization agreement in 2020.

Col. Sharon Itach, from the Home Front Command, was selected for the role by IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi among a series of senior appointments in the military.

Itach, who is of Moroccan origin, currently heads the Home Front Command’s Haifa district. Previously he led the 489th Kedem search and rescue battalion.

The 22 new senior appointments, which include extending the tenure of IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Eyal Karim by two more years, are subject to approval by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Karim’s appointment in 2016 was marred in controversy after comments he once made came to light, that appeared to condone soldiers’ rape of women during wartime. Karim’s appointment was eventually greenlit after he clarified that he had never condoned such action, but rather was attempting to explain why it was once permitted by religious texts.

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 of the Second Intifada in 2000.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi is greeted by an honor guard in Rabat, Morocco, July 19, 2022. (IDF)

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 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.

In July 2022, then-IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi held a first official visit to Morocco. In February, the chief of the Israeli Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, also visited the African nation.

In June, the IDF sent a delegation of troops to participate in a major American-led military drill held in Morocco, a first for the Israeli army.

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