The head of Israel’s diplomatic mission in Morocco, David Govrin, has argued that claims of sexual harassment against him were fabricated by the mission’s chief security officer amid a bitter feud between the two, according to a Sunday report.
The Foreign Ministry recalled Govrin from his post last week pending an investigation into allegations of a slew of sexual and financial improprieties at the newly opened Israeli mission in Rabat. Govrin, the mission’s chargé d’affaires, was the Foreign Ministry’s top representative in Morocco.
In response to the accusations, Govrin’s attorney, Dror Matityahu, sent a letter to Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz saying the security officer made up the accusations out of revenge, according to a Ynet report.
“The origin of all the baseless claims is an official who was caught red-handed and is now acting out of hate and revenge in an attempt to harm the ambassador,” the letter said.
That official, the letter charges, was the mission’s chief security officer, Ran Metzuyanim, who has clashed with Govrin while in Rabat, the report said.
In February, Govrin filed a complaint against Metzuyanim for allegedly using the mission’s security vehicle in a way that violated the rules — a complaint that was found to be justified by the Foreign Ministry’s top inspector.
Matityahu’s letter said that in April, Govrin gave a low rating to Metzuyanim, saying he wasn’t fit to serve as the mission’s chief security officer and adding that Metzuyanim staying in his role would cause “diplomatic damage.”
In response, Metzuyanim has “contacted various media outlets and launched a libelous, demeaning and offensive smear campaign against the ambassador,” Govrin’s lawyer said.
Metzuyanim’s campaign is “an attempt to harm the ambassador and his partner and to remove him from his job in unacceptable ways,” the letter said.
Govrin’s lawyer said the sexual harassment allegations were “apparently made by a fictitious woman” and the claims had never been brought to Govrin directly.
Govrin has “no intention of dealing with a claim that has not been made to him, about an unknown issue,” the letter said of the harassment allegations.
Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry told Ynet it was doubtful Govrin would be able to return to his position in Morocco following the allegations.
Reports have said Govrin has poor relations with other officials at the mission, with four employees recently quitting or being fired as a result.
The decision to recall Govrin last week was made by Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz following an initial investigation carried out by a senior Israeli delegation that arrived in Morocco to collect statements from ministry staff.
Ynet reported there was a general sense of chaos at the ministry at the time, with the outlet quoting ministry officials as saying “everyone is at each other’s throats.”
The report did not provide details of the investigation but said that a few of the complaints were made by former employees of the Israeli mission in Rabat whom Govrin had fired on different occasions.
Details of the investigation, first reported by the Kan public broadcaster, were confirmed to Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, by the ministry.
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 serious 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.
It was 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.
On Friday, dozens of demonstrators protested outside Morocco’s parliament against the kingdom’s normalization with Israel, and after Israel recalled Govrin.
“Today, we are in front of the parliament to protest against the hideous acts” allegedly committed by Govrin, said Amine Abdelhamid, a pro-Palestinian activist against normalization between Morocco and Israel.
“Morocco’s dignity is not for sale, the normalization must end,” he said.
Protesters burned an Israeli flag at the end of the demonstration.
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 were maintaining liaison offices in one another’s countries but they 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.