An Algerian top official sa on Thursday that Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s visit to neighboring Morocco, with which Algiers has severed diplomatic relations, “targeted” his country.
Gantz’s trip to Morocco this week comes amid tensions between Rabat and Algiers, which are embroiled in a conflict over disputed Western Sahara.
“Enemies are mobilizing more and more to undermine Algeria,” which was the “target” of the visit, said Senate President Salah Goudjil.
Goudjil is the highest-ranking official in Algeria, after the president. He made the remarks the day after Gantz and Morocco’s defense minister, Abdellatif Loudiyi, signed a landmark security agreement and Rabat.
The deal would make it easier for Rabat to acquire high-tech exports from Israel and is the latest step between the two countries that normalized ties last year.
Israel has several security agreements with allied nations, but the Morocco agreement marks the first of its kind with a majority Arab nation, an Israeli official has said, on condition of anonymity.
According to the Gantz office, the defense pact and the renewed ties are also expected to allow large arms deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years, although defense officials emphasize that this is not Israel’s primary focus.
A senior Israeli defense official denied reports in the Israeli media that the two countries had already signed such arms sales. Although Morocco has expressed interest in a number of Israeli systems – in particular Barak 8 missile defense systems, drones from the Israeli aviation industry, Elbit radar systems and more – these deals are only at an early stage and have not received the necessary permits.
“There will be projects and sales in the future, but the Minister of Defense did not approve and did not sign any agreement during his stay. All major sales that have been discussed must go through an approval and signing process. But I am optimistic that it will exist. The Moroccans have many challenges when it comes to defending their borders, against missiles and in the area of drones, and we want to help them fight terrorism, the official said on Thursday.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (right) shakes hands with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi, after signing a memorandum of understanding between the two countries at the Moroccan Ministry of Defense in Rabat, November 24, 2021. (Ministry of Defense)
Morocco controls most of Western Sahara and regards the former Spanish colony as part of its sovereign territory. Algeria supports Western Sahara’s independence movement Polisario Front.
Algeria cut diplomatic relations with Morocco in August, citing “hostile acts” – an accusation denied by Rabat – and Morocco’s recent rapprochement with Israel.
When Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced the move, he also condemned “massive and systematic espionage acts” by Morocco, citing allegations that the kingdom’s security services used Pegasus espionage programs developed by the Israeli NSO group against its officials and citizens. It was reported by the news agency APS then. Morocco strongly denies such claims.
Earlier this month, Algiers accused Rabat of killing three Algerian civilians on a desert highway through the Polisario-held area of Western Sahara in an attack on their trucks, raising fears of an escalation.
Police chief Brahim Ghali said last week that the movement had decided to intensify military operations.
The Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.