Thursday, November 08, 2018

Israel-Morocco ties increasingly visible

"Secret" Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, despite the North African country sharing no official relations with Israel and growing calls in Morocco against "economic normalisation". One Israeli company, Netafim, makes no secret of its drip-feeding business in Morocco, but was forced out of an agricultural fair in Rabat in October after BDS protests. Middle East Eye reports:

A protester setting fire to the Israeli flag

Recent statistical discrepancies are a good start. Although Morocco’s official trade data has never made mention of Israel whatsoever, Israeli records shows $37m worth of commerce with Morocco in 2017, according to data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) this year.

This means that, out of Israel’s 22 African trading partners, Morocco is among the four top nations from which it imports, and ninth in terms of exports, according to CBS. However, with $149m worth of trade between 2014 and 2017, this partnership is not new.

More unusual is Israel’s first overt foreign investment into the Arab world, with Israeli agricultural technology giant Netafim setting up a $2.9m subsidiary in Morocco last year, thereby creating 17 jobs, according to fDi Markets, a Financial Times data service that has monitored crossborder greenfield investment worldwide since 2003. Greenfield investment is when a company builds its operations in a foreign country from the ground up.

This development may fit into broader regional trends. Arab-Israeli relations are improving, for one, due to a growing alliance aginst Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visit to Oman is a good example of these warming relations.

Netafim’s investment is the most visible example of the longstanding and "clandestine" economic ties between Israel and Morocco, two countries that have shared historically warm ties compared to other Arab-Israeli relations.
However, public opposition in Morocco against normalisation with Israel keeps these ties under wraps.

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