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Kohavi lands in Morocco for first official trip by Israeli military chief

Chief of staff slated to meet counterpart, Moroccan defense minister, other military officials; army says visit part of ‘efforts to broaden military cooperation’

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

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a conference in Modi'in, June 12, 2022. (Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a conference in Modi'in, June 12, 2022. (Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi landed in Morocco on Monday, becoming the first Israeli army head to visit the North African nation as part of an official trip.

Kohavi was slated to meet Tuesday with Morocco’s Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, chief of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El Farouk, and additional senior defense officials, the IDF said in a statement.

“The aim of the visit is to learn from each other and share knowledge, and is part of the IDF’s overall efforts to broaden military cooperation with other countries,” the statement said.

Kohavi is traveling with the military’s international cooperation commander, Brig. Gen. Effie Defrin, and the head of the Intelligence Research Division, Brig. Gen. Amit Saar.

“This visit is in addition to recent meetings and cooperation between the two countries, as part of the advancement of military-security cooperation between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco,” the military said.

Last November, Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a memorandum of understanding with his Moroccan counterpart, the first such agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco, November 24, 2021. The two countries normalized relations in December 2020. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy, File)

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 March, senior Israeli military officials wrapped up their first official trip to Morocco, where the sides signed an accord that aimed to have the two militaries collaborate, and last month, Israeli officers and Defense Ministry officials participated in a major military drill in Morocco as observers.

Tal Kelman, left, head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, meets with Belkhir El Farouk, Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in Rabat, March 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Earlier this year, Kohavi traveled to Bahrain — also a first — and reportedly met with his Qatari counterpart, despite limited relations between the countries.

Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco normalized relations with Israel in 2020.

In Kohavi’s absence, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi will carry out the military chief’s responsibilities in Israel, the IDF said.

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