On 17 July, Israel joined the United States as the only countries to recognise the disputed region of Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Israel’s army chief has appointed Colonel Sharon Itach as the nation’s first military attaché to Morocco. Itach, 41, previously headed the Haifa district command.
His father is a Moroccan Jew and he speaks Moroccan Arabic, staying connected to his roots.
Itach became a war hero in Israel after joining the army at 18 years during the Second Intifada.
He did compulsory service fighting in Gaza and was later recruited permanently before becoming a top aide to Gaza commander Lt. Col. Pinky Zoertz, who led all Gaza operations then.
He considered Zoertz, whose life he saved, a father figure. From 2011-2013, Zoertz went to the US for a Jewish recruitment program, which included some Moroccan Jews.
What is the purpose of a military attaché?
Itach’s posting needs approval from Israel’s defence minister even though his role — a consultant at the new Rabat embassy — seems symbolic. He may coordinate joint military exercises and promote Israeli arms sales.
Though military cooperation led to a 2021 framework deal, Israeli sources also call Itach’s role symbolic — ‘diplomatic niceties’ with real military talks happening privately at high levels.
The role also carries risks:
- In 1973, Israel’s US attaché Joe Alon was killed in Washington in an unsolved case.
- In 2011, Israel expelled Russia’s attaché for alleged espionage.
- That same year, Israel charged its Swiss attaché with illegal arms sales from 2002-2005, though he had been seen as professional.
While Itach’s appointment boosts Israel-Morocco defence ties, it could also draw scrutiny given the sensitive nature of a military attaché’s activities.
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