The security cooperation agreement between Morocco and Israel has raised some concerns in several European countries, which must review their diplomatic policy, writes researcher Abdelkader Abderrahmane.
On November 24, Morocco and Israel signed a security cooperation agreement. This agreement, which includes a section on cooperation in the military industry, could give a technological and military advantage to Morocco compared to the Algerian neighbor, especially since its military budget ($12,8 billion) could surpass that of Algeria by 2022.
The agreement follows to the agreements of Abraham of November 2020 which had sealed diplomatic relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv in exchange for the recognition by the Trump administration of the “Moroccanness” of Western Sahara. Since then, Rabat has also created a new military region along its eastern border with Algeria, increasing the presence of arms and soldiers on both sides of the border.
The signing of the agreement further deteriorated the already very tense relations between Morocco and Algeria. Last August, Algiers severed diplomatic relations with Rabat, following an escalation of incidents emanating from the Makhzen (Moroccan power). Among these incidents, we find in particular the tapping of Algerian officials using the israeli spyware pegasus or the appeal of the Moroccan ambassador to the United Nations in favor of the autonomy of Kabylie – a red line for Algiers.
To analyze the Israeli-Moroccan agreement only through the Algerian-Moroccan prism would however be an error of assessment. In reality, the countries around the Mediterranean, starting with Spain, are also concerned.
Will the good international image of Morocco be eroded?
So far, Morocco has benefited from an image of a reliable ally with the international community, despite the fact that he is the world's largest exporter of cannabis and that its occupation of Western Sahara since Spain's withdrawal from that territory in 1975 be illegal under international law.
La nouvelle military cooperation in the making between Rabat and Tel Aviv could well change the situation.
Indeed, emboldened by its new relations with Israel and, by extension, with Washington, Morocco could well be even more aggressive in its face to face with Spain.
It should be recalled that, even before the signing of this agreement, the Makhzen had not hesitated, in May 2021, to send nearly 8 young Moroccans, including babies, to flood the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, which had prompted the authorities Spanish women to denounce a "aggression" and "blackmail". According to many observers, this Moroccan operation was above all due to the will of the power of Rabat to create a diversion with its own population, prey to many serious socio-economic difficulties.
As the political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca rightly pointed out in the Spanish daily El Mundo, recalling the precedent of the "green march" of 1975, when 350 Moroccan civilians and soldiers had already marched to Western Sahara in order to occupy it, the Makhzen was not at its first attempt in its use of its population for national political purposes and reinforcement of the throne.
This migrant crisis was also a reminder that the interdependence created by globalization can be diverted and used as a strategy of “connectivity war” instead of contributing to development. Recep Erdogan's Turkey had used the same methods by allowing thousands of migrants to pass through Europe, thus exerting pressure on European countries but also demonstrating the interdependence between the EU and Turkey. Closer to home, the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU, the United States and the United Nations also underline that globalization has made countries deeply interdependent and therefore also more vulnerable.
The Spaniards, who have also not forgotten the intrusion of Moroccan military elements [on the Spanish island of Perijil in July 2002], are not the only ones to have had trouble with Rabat in recent years. This was also, and still recently, the case of Germans and the French, who would also have been spied on by Morocco using Pegasus software.
The necessary update of the European geopolitical software
The Ceuta incident in May 2021 had highlighted "the reality of a worryingly regressing authoritarian power" as the newspaper's editorial pointed out at the time. Le Monde, which invited "to get out of a certain naivety in the way we look at Morocco".
The different demonstrations in the streets of Morocco condemning the visit to Morocco of the Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, last November, reveal, for their part, a deep gap between the people and the royal palace. Illustration of this gap: demonstrators went as far as throw stones at a giant portrait of Mohammed VI. Unthinkable gesture in Morocco until recently!
The events recurring threats to freedom and dignity in the Rif region, economically neglected by the central government in Rabat, could also be accentuated. The response of the Moroccan authorities consisting in multiplying the prosecutions and arrests against the demonstrators only strengthens the movement, which does not bend. Moreover, the new alliance with Israel is in great danger of being the straw that will break the camel's back, not only for the Rif but for many Moroccans, in the eyes of whom this rapprochement between Rabat and Tel Aviv constitutes a betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The continuation of the Rif demonstrations could well destabilize the Cherifian throne and provoke bloody repression, which would inevitably lead to a wave of Moroccan migration to Europe.
At the regional level, the agreement with Israel is also likely to have important consequences. Morocco being better armed and therefore more likely to enter into a military conflict, even minimal, with Algeria or with the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, the Maghreb, but also the Sahel and French-speaking Africa as a whole, could see themselves drawn into a spiral of instability whose shock waves will be felt right to the heart of the Europe in the medium and long term. Because a destabilization of North Africa will inevitably result in a wave of migration to Europe on a scale never seen before. Moreover, due to the size of the Franco-Maghreb community living in France, an Algerian-Moroccan armed conflict, even of low intensity, could only have repercussions in France.
Moreover, this Moroccan armament at the gates of Europe which worries Madrid also risks creating diplomatic tensions and divisions within the European Union itself between the countries which systematically support Rabat, such as France, and others, such as Germany, which would like to see more firmness vis-à-vis live in Morocco.
If their attention is currently riveted on Ukraine, it would no doubt be wise for the Europeans, and especially for France, to ask themselves whether the connivance policy described by the political scientist Bertrand Badie is always justified with regard to Morocco. Paris, especially, could position itself as a credible interlocutor and partner throughout the Maghreb if it ended its unconditional support for the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. A development that would be all the more useful since, at a time when Europeans are looking for an alternative to Russian gas, Algeria can prove to be a valuable ally in this area.