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Israeli envoy reopens Morocco liaison office after 20 years

David Govrin will build up Israel’s diplomatic presence in the country after normalization, expanding bilateral political, tourism, economic, and cultural ties

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

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

Israel’s chargé d’affaires to Morocco arrived in the capital city of Rabat on Tuesday, 20 years after Israel closed its liaison office in the North African country.

Dr. David Govrin, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 2016 to 2020, will build up Israel’s diplomatic mission in the country, expanding bilateral political, tourism, economic, and cultural ties.

Morocco became the third Arab state in 2020 to normalize ties with Israel under US-brokered deals, joining the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In return, then-US president Donald Trump fulfilled a decades-old goal of Morocco by backing its contested sovereignty in Western Sahara, what Rabat refers to as its “southern provinces.”

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.

Then-US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, center, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, center-right, arrive at the Royal Palace in the Moroccan capital Rabat, December 22, 2020. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

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

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Morocco. The Knesset is still required to ratify the treaty. The previous normalization deals were unanimously approved by the cabinet. in the Knesset, all but the Arab lawmakers backed the pacts.

Morocco is home to North Africa’s largest Jewish community, which has been there since ancient times and grew with the arrival of Jews expelled from Spain by Catholic kings from 1492.

It reached about 250,000 in the late 1940s, 10 percent of the national population, but many Jews left after the creation of Israel in 1948, many of them fleeing local hostilities directed at them over the establishment of the Jewish state.

About 3,000 Jews remain in Morocco, and the Casablanca community is one of the country’s most active.

Israel, meanwhile, is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan descent.

Also Tuesday, Israel’s consulate in Dubai opened with the arrival of Consul-General Ilan Sztulman. Sztulman will focus on developing economic ties, tourism, and flights between the countries, according to the Foreign Ministry. Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s ambassador to the UAE, arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

“The arrival of the heads of missions to Morocco and Dubai completes the first, important phase of opening new Israeli missions in the region as part of the Abraham Accords,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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