Kohavi meets Morocco’s defense minister, army chief on second day of landmark trip

IDF head greeted by honor guard, defense officials after landing in Rabat Monday evening; dozens stage protest against visit, burning photos of him

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

Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi was greeted on Tuesday morning by Moroccan defense officials and an honor guard, after landing in the North African nation the previous evening.

Kohavi is the first IDF chief of staff to visit Morocco on an official trip.

He met Tuesday with Morocco’s Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, chief of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El Farouk, chief of Morocco’s Intelligence Directorate, Brahim Hassani, as well as other senior defense officials.

During the discussions, the Moroccan side noted its “interest in jointly setting up industrial defense projects in Morocco”, the kingdom’s army chief said in a statement.

“The meetings addressed opportunities for military cooperation, both in exercises and training, as well as in the operational and intelligence fields,” the IDF said in a separate release.

“The officials noted the historical and cultural ties between the two nations and their common interests in the Middle East,” the IDF added.

Earlier, Kohavi toured the Mausoleum of King Muhammad V, where he laid a wreath on behalf of the IDF and Israel and signed a guest book at the site, the military said.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi lays a wreath at the Mausoleum of King Muhammad V in Rabat, Morocco, July 19, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

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

As Kohavi arrived in the country, a few dozen people gathered in Rabat to protest against the visit, raising banners and burning pictures of him.

The IDF said in a statement that “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.”

“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.

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.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi (right) meets with Belkhir El Farouk, Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in Rabat, July 19 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

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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