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Morocco to host Israeli drone site amid anti-Israel uproar

Morocco to host Israeli drone production facility despite anti-normalisation uproar
3 min read
16 April, 2024
In March, Rabat confirmed its ongoing normalisation with Israel, claiming that it has benefits for the Palestinian cause.
So far, Rabat has not commented on the news regarding BlueBird Aero Systems' alleged project in Morocco. [Getty]

Morocco will reportedly host an Israeli drone production site despite the growing anti-normalisation protests in the country.

Ronen Nadir, CEO of BlueBird Aero Systems, stated that his company has already established a local production facility in the North African kingdom. "It will start operating soon," Nadir was quoted as saying by Zona Militar, a defence news outlet based in Buenos Aires.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), one of Tel Aviv's prominent defence companies, owns 50% of Blue Bird's shares.

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This will not be Morocco's first collaboration with IAI and its subsidiary.

In February 2022, Morocco concluded a US$500 million deal with IAI to purchase the Israeli-made Barak MX air and missile defence system.

A month later, Morocco's Minister of Industry and Trade, Ryad Mezzour, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of IAI, Amir Peretz, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in aeronautics.

"Israel and Morocco are beginning today a new phase of strategic and economic cooperation," said Minister Mezzour on 23 March, following the deal with IAI.

French media outlet La Tribune reported last December that Rabat seeks to build a new surveillance satellite in cooperation with the company.

In an article titled, "Moroccan army, a loyal client of IAI," Moroccan media Le Desk reported that Rabat finalised a firm order for 150 WanderB and ThunderB VTOL drones designed by Blue Bird.

The June 2016 Le Desk article added, "Morocco is also eyeing the Hermes 450 drones."

Morocco's growing military budget is predicated on its continued conflict with a well-armed Algeria that backs the separatist Polisario Front in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco normalised ties with Israel in late 2020, and a year later, the two states signed a military cooperation agreement, with Rabat publicly stating its military ambitions.

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Rabat will host a drone production site as part of the deal, as confirmed by its mention during the presentation of the 2023 finance bill.

Last June, an Israeli envoy to Morocco announced the imminent opening of Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms maker, in the North African state. The announcement sparked several protests in the country, with activists vowing escalation if the opening proceeded.

So far, Rabat has not commented on the news regarding BlueBird Aero Systems' alleged project in Morocco.

Amid Israel's genocidal war on Gaza, Rabat maintained ties with Israel discreetly, while thousands of Moroccans rally weekly to protest against normalisation and demand cutting all relations with Tel Aviv.

Although the conflict may slow down the pace of normalisation with Tel Aviv, analysts predict that Morocco is unlikely to sever ties with Israel.

In March, Rabat confirmed its ongoing normalisation with Israel, emphasising its benefits for the Palestinian people.

"By securing a land route to deliver aid from within Israel, Morocco shows that its connections in Israel serve the cause of peace and defend the rights of Palestinians," a Moroccan diplomatic source told Reuters after Rabat managed to secure a land route for aid, marking a first since the start of the conflict.