Police chief said to advance extradition and terror-fighting ties with Morocco

Unofficial sources say agreements brokered by Kobi Shabtai last week weren’t included in previous deals between Jerusalem and Rabat

Chief of police Kobi Shabtai attends a ceremony honoring Israeli security forces, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Chief of police Kobi Shabtai attends a ceremony honoring Israeli security forces, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel and Morocco agreed to advance extradition agreements and joint efforts against crime and terror during Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai’s five-day visit to Rabat last week, Hebrew media reported on Thursday.

Unofficial sources revealed that Israel’s police chief secured several understandings with Morocco on the war against crime and terrorism, including information and technology sharing, as well as the extradition of Israeli lawbreakers who escape to the North African country, according to the Ynet news site.

The report did not go into detail about the specifics of the agreements, but said that they included steps not part of previously signed deals between the countries.

During his visit, Shabtai met with the head of Morocco’s intelligence service Abdellatif Hammouchi, as well as other senior police and security officials. He also paid a visit to the Jewish community in the city of Marrakesh, where he lay tefillin (phylacteries used for weekday Jewish morning prayers) at the city’s great synagogue.

The Directorate General of National Security said in an official statement last Thursday that Shabtai’s visit aimed “to share experiences and expertise in various security fields, particularly in the areas of combating terrorism and various forms of transnational organized crime.”

The trip comes months after Shabtai visited the United Arab Emirates to promote security cooperation initiatives between the countries. Police announced at the time that an Israeli police attaché would be based at Israel’s embassy in the UAE, responsible for coordinating Israel’s law enforcement activities in Africa and the Middle East.

Israel has engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity since the Abraham Accords, a joint peace declaration initially signed on September 15, 2020, which officially normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

In December 2020, Morocco and Israel inked a normalization agreement, establishing full diplomatic relations. Then, in January 2021, Sudan signed on to the accords, symbolically declaring its intention to advance normalization with Israel.

Last month, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar signed an accord with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Ouahb in Rabat, boosting legal links with the North African kingdom.

The two promised to share expertise and modernize the two countries’ judicial systems through digitalization while cooperating in the fight against organized crime, terrorism, and human trafficking.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Ouahbi sign a bilateral agreement on legal cooperation in Rabat on July 26, 2022. (Courtesy)

A week earlier, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi became the first Israeli army head to visit Morocco as part of an official trip.

Kohavi met with Morocco’s Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi, chief of the Royal Armed Forces Belkhir El Farouk, and additional senior defense officials, and discussed “opportunities for military cooperation, both in exercises and training, as well as in the operational and intelligence fields,” the IDF said in a statement at the time.

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.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, is welcomed by Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, right, in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

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 in June, Israeli officers and Defense Ministry officials participated in a major military drill in Morocco as observers.

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