Israel appoints new envoy to Morocco after sexual harassment scandal in Rabat liaison office
Israel has announced the appointment of a new ambassador to the Moroccan Kingdom as Tel Aviv endeavours to clamp down over a sex scandal that rocked its Rabat office last year.
In a Twitter post, the Israeli liaison office in Morocco revealed last Thursday, 4 May, the name of Tel Aviv's new envoy: Shai Cohen.
"Minister Nir Barakat continued his visit to Morocco, in Meknes, to open the first Israeli pavilion at the International Forum for Agriculture. He toured the exhibition space, accompanied by Ambassador Shai Cohen and a high-ranking diplomatic delegation (...)," read the Tweet posted originally in Arabic.
Former consul general and ambassador of Israel in Ankara and representative of Tel Aviv in a number of diplomatic missions in Europe and South America, Shai Cohen's introduction was made only over a social media post.
تابع الوزير نير بركات زيارته للمغرب بمدينة مكناس لافتتاح أول جناح إسرائيلي في الملتقى الدولي للفلاحة، وقام بجولة داخل فضاء المعرض مرفوقا بالسفير شاي كوهن ووفد دبلوماسي رفيع لدعم الشركات الاسرائيلية المشاركة في فعاليات هذا الحدث الدولي🇮🇱🇲🇦 pic.twitter.com/HRH6iXGfFm— Bureau de Liaison d'Israël au Maroc (@IsraelinRabat) May 4, 2023
Local media outlined the announcement style as "discreet" and "unprecedented".
Since normalising ties two years ago, Israel has continued to refer to several diplomats as "ambassadors" to Morocco, while Rabat reserves from confirming or denying the acclaimed status of these envoys.
In August 2021, Israel first inaugurated its liaison office in Rabat while appointing David Govrin as the head of the office.
The diplomat soon changed his bio on Twitter to "Israeli ambassador to Morocco." Govrin's move bewildered local media at the time as the Moroccan foreign minister refused to comment on the incident.
Govrin was summoned in September back to Israel after accusations of sexual harassment and mismanagement of his duties. Tel Aviv said it opened an investigation into the allegations against him.
The Israeli diplomat Alona Fischer Kamm replaced Govrin for a few months using also the title of "ambassador."
However, Moroccan law insists that foreign ambassadors submit their credentials to the King or the foreign minister usually in a public ceremony.
No Israeli envoy was among the ambassadors who met publicly the Moroccan King or his foreign minister in the last two years.
Contacted by The New Arab for clarification, Rabat's foreign ministry refrained from commenting on Cohen's title.
The alleged appointment of Shai Cohen came three months after the start of the construction of the Israeli embassy in Rabat.
In December 2020, Moroccan normalised ties with Israel in exchange for the American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Though, Israel has decided not to engage in the territorial dispute between Morocco, Algeria and its backed Polisario Front.
Since then, Israel-Moroccan official diplomatic delegations stayed lowkey as their military and economic cooperation evolved.
Published in January, a news report by Axios outlet said that Morocco has demanded Israel recognise its sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara before upgrading their diplomatic delegations.
For decades, Morocco has been involved in a dispute with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in Western Sahara.
The UN recognises neither sovereignty over the disputed territory. But, it supports Morocco's autonomy plan which is supposed to allow Sahrawis to run their affairs "democratically", through legislative, executive, and judicial bodies, while Morocco retains control over the defence and foreign relations.
However, Polisario Front and Algeria have rejected Rabat's proposal.
Today, the Western Sahara dispute is an upfront national cause for Rabat as the Moroccan Monarch insists that only states' positions on the dispute can be a judge of their friendship with Rabat.