David Govrin, appointed in 2021 and recalled to Tel Aviv in September 2022 after being accused of “financial irregularities” and “sexual abuse,” is now out of the dog house. In an unexpected twist, Govrin will be returning to the kingdom next month to replace Shai Cohen, who was only just appointed on 3 May.
Influence and power struggles
Cohen made the announcement at a press conference at Israel’s liaison office in Rabat on 6 June. According to our sources, the seasoned diplomat, who served in Turkey from 2014 to 2017, learned the news shortly before his speech. He had been widely perceived as destined to stay in Morocco.
Behind the scenes of this diplomatic ballet are an array of struggles for power and influence, notably between Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the Israeli prime minister’s office seeking to place its people in the diplomatic sphere.
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Govrin is reputed to be close to highly placed figures in Netanyahu’s Likud party, business leaders and political decision-makers.
The former Israeli government led by Yaïr Lapid opened an investigation into the allegations against Govrin in Morocco. It now appears to have been stifled by the ruling coalition, as the findings have never been made public.
Critics of the decision say Govrin is benefiting from a veritable operation to “whitewash” his reputation. However, it remains unclear as to the actual responsibilities of the post he will occupy in Rabat or how long he’ll stay in the role.
This is significant because in Israel the choice of ambassador to Morocco is to fall to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a condition firmly negotiated at the time it formed its coalition with Likud.
Behind the scenes, a number of players in Israeli diplomacy regret that party politics have taken precedence over the development of cooperation between Morocco and Israel. While the return of Govrin is likely to arouse indignation among Israeli and Moroccan good-government groups, it could nevertheless be overshadowed in the kingdom by another major event.
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Indeed, the two countries’ diplomatic services are currently negotiating for Israel to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara.
“We don’t know when this will happen, but it is more than likely that the Israeli government will accede to Morocco’s request,” says a source. “Govrin’s return will therefore be merely a detail.”
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