Morocco and Israel plan to set up a new military base near Melilla

Rabat and Tel Aviv continue to increase cooperation after Israeli drone sale to the kingdom
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Even before the arrival of Aziz Akhanouch to the Moroccan presidency, the Alawite kingdom had begun to improve its relations with Israel. The appointment of David Govrin as the Hebrew country's first ambassador to Rabat - previously director of the Israel Liaison Office in the same city - confirmed that it was the magnate's intention to continue this line of cooperation. Now, Moroccans and Israelis are setting their sights on the region around the autonomous city of Melilla, where they consider it would be ideal to install a new military base that would further strengthen cooperation between the two countries.

The agreement to establish the base south of Melilla was reported by El Español, which also assured that the extension of the existing agreement on security and intelligence would be signed next week. This comes on the occasion of the arrival of the Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, who will be in Rabat on 24 and 25 November. This will be the first trip by an Israeli Defence Minister to Morocco, during which an agreement is expected to be signed that will define the terms of cooperation between the two states in defence matters.

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AFP/JALAA MAREY - A battery of Israel's Iron Dome, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, has been installed at the site of an Israeli military operation.

The signing is expected to take place together with Abdellatif Loudiyi, the minister delegate in charge of national defence administration in Morocco. In addition, according to the Arab television channel Al-Arabiya, Gantz will be accompanied by experts and officials to study and discuss different investment opportunities in the field of cooperation, with one of the fundamental issues being the base near the Spanish autonomous city. The chosen location would be Afsó, located very close to the Monte Arruit airport, a region that belonged to the Spanish Protectorate in Moroccan lands from 1912 to 1956.

This agreement for the establishment of the military base could be historic, not only for these two countries, but for the region as a whole. Foreign intelligence sources assure "El Español" that "this partnership surpasses the Abraham agreements also signed with the United States in October 2020". The initiative would continue the line established with previous projects, such as the purchase of Israeli drones by Morocco or the manufacture of kamikaze drones in the Alawi kingdom with the collaboration of the Israelis, who could produce large quantities at a much lower price.

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PHOTO/AP - Large screens and billboards remind of the COVID-19 pandemic and warn passengers to keep a safe distance in the lobby of the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca, Morocco.

"Info Defence" adds that it should be on this trip that the installation of the drone factory is signed, and that "Benny Gantz should commit to providing Morocco with the advanced Iron Dome air defence system". This system is currently being produced for the United States and would help the kingdom to continue its process of modernising its defence and military forces, with France and the United States as its main suppliers, now joined by Israel and possibly Turkey, according to the Spanish media.

Following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco less than a year ago - December 2020 - ties could not seem to be moving in a better direction. The Israeli ambassador to Rabat himself says that "the potential of the agreements is important; it must be understood that we have maintained social and cultural relations for decades". It should not be forgotten that a direct airline connecting Casablanca and Tel Aviv will be launched on 12 December. Royal Air Maroc will be in charge, and work is already underway on the issue of visas for Moroccans wishing to travel to the Hebrew lands.