Morocco’s envoy arrives in Israel to reopen liaison office

Abderrahim Beyyoud meets Foreign Minister Ashkenazi; Israel’s envoy in Rabat has first sit-down with kingdom’s top diplomat Nasser Bourita

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

From left to right: Lior Ben Dor, Director of the Department for Maghreb at the MFA;  Abderrahim Beyyoud, Head of the Moroccan Liaison Office in Israel; and Gil Haskel, Head of Protocol, MFA (Foreign Ministry)
From left to right: Lior Ben Dor, Director of the Department for Maghreb at the MFA; Abderrahim Beyyoud, Head of the Moroccan Liaison Office in Israel; and Gil Haskel, Head of Protocol, MFA (Foreign Ministry)

The head of Morocco’s diplomatic mission to Israel landed at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday and met with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi before commencing his work in the country, following a normalization agreement between Jerusalem and Rabat.

Abderrahim Beyyoud, head of Morocco’s liasion office in Israel, told Ashkenazi that he was extremely happy when he was told of his appointment by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. He pledged to advance the ties between the two countries.

Ashkenazi wished the Moroccan diplomat luck in his mission of developing bilateral ties, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Also Tuesday, David Govrin, head of Israel’s liaison office in Rabat, met for the first time with Bourita. Govrin is likely to become Israel’s ambassador to Morocco should full diplomatic ties be established.

Illustrative: Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita at a press conference in Rabat, Morocco, June 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

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

Bourita and Ashkenazi spoke by phone for the first time last Tuesday. “We agreed to work together to rapidly implement the agreements between Morocco and Israel,” Ashkenazi said in a tweet. “We also discussed increasing bilateral cooperation as well as wider regional issues.”

In late January, Bourita and Israeli National Security Council chairman Meir Ben-Shabbat agreed by phone to establish “joint working groups” to promote cooperation between the two countries in a variety of areas, including investments, transportation, water, the environment, energy and tourism.

Israel’s envoy to Morocco David Govrin (R) with David Toledano, head of the Jewish community in Rabat, January 2021 (Foreign Ministry)

Morocco became the third Arab state to normalize ties with Israel in 2020 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.

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 starting in 1492.

It reached about 250,000 in the late 1940s, 10 percent of the national population, but many Jews left after the founding 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.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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