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Shabtai takes off to Morocco for first official visit by Israel’s top cop

Police chief will hold talks with Rabat’s senior police and security officials on improving law enforcement ties between countries amid increasingly warm relations

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)

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai traveled to Morocco on Monday, becoming the first Israeli police chief to visit the North African nation as part of an official trip.

Shabtai’s visit follows one made by the army chief last month, as ties between the two countries grow closer following the signing of a normalization agreement in 2020.

Shabtai is slated to meet senior Moroccan police and national security officials, and visit law enforcement facilities, police said in a statement.

“The police commissioner and senior Moroccan officials will discuss bolstering operational, intelligence, and investigative cooperation in order to strengthen the relationship between the countries and the police,” the statement said.

Shabtai will be accompanied by the head of police intelligence and the head of the Israel Police Foreign Affairs Unit.

During the five-day visit, the police chief will lay a wreath at the Rabat Mausoleum, the resting place of Morocco’s past rulers, and will also visit local Jewish community sites.

Shabtai’s trip comes months after he visited the United Arab Emirates to promote security cooperation initiatives between the countries. Police then announced 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.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi is greeted by an honor guard in Rabat, Morocco, July 19, 2022. (IDF)

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 Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel.

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, 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, 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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