The Israeli Harop UAV (Israeli Aerospace Industries) (Israeli Aerospace Industries)
Harop

Could Israel get entangled in rising Morocco-Algeria tensions?

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Moroccan counterpart are on the verge of signing what would be the first-ever security agreement between Israel and an Arab state.

Gantz is scheduled to visit Rabat on Nov. 24, where he and Moroccan Defense Minister Abdellatif Loudiyi will sign a memorandum of understanding outlining security cooperation between the two countries, Gantz’s office announced.

According to media reports, one facet of the memorandum of understanding is the joint development of aerial drones. Bluebird Aerosystems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, is in negotiations with Moroccan officials about developing a business incubator to manufacture such drones, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Moroccan security officials are said to be impressed with the performance of Israel’s Harop UAVs, which Azerbaijan deployed against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh last year. The Harop can loiter in the sky for long periods of time before flying directly at a target and self-destructing — a so-called “suicide drone.”

Israel has also reportedly sold Morocco military communications and control systems via an undisclosed third party, according to the Post.

Morocco’s interest in Israeli security cooperation stems from its rivalry with Algeria over the Western Sahara. Morocco annexed the former Spanish territory in 1975, which most of the world does not recognize. Algeria sees itself as a champion of Sahrawi independence and supports the separatist Polisario Front. When Morocco signed the Abraham Accords, the U.S. recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory.

Tensions between Morocco and Algeria have risen since three Algerian truck drivers passing through Western Sahara were killed in a bombing on November 1. It’s not clear who was responsible, but Algeria blames Morocco. Moroccan officials haven’t commented.

Some African reports have insinuated that the Moroccans used Israeli or Turkish drones on the Algerian truck convoy, though no evidence has been provided.

Morocco severed ties with Israel in 2000 when the Second Intifada broke out. Diplomatic ties were restored in 2020 when Morocco joined the Abraham accords. In August, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid opened Israel’s diplomatic mission in Rabat. The two countries plan to open embassies in the near future.

In other Israel-Morocco news, Morocco’s national airline, Royal Air Maroc, announced on Tuesday plans to launch regular direct flights between Tel Aviv and Casablanca. Starting December 13, the commercial flights will operate three days a week with plans to expand to five days a week. El Al launched a direct Tel Aviv-Marrakech line in July.

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