Sale of 200 Israel’s Merkava Mk3 tanks to Morocco is ‘blocked’

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In mid-June of this year, Israel decided to conduct the first-ever re-exploit of its Merkava main battle tank. Israel rarely discloses the recipient of indigenous weapons, especially if they are lethal. However, there were three assumptions – Turkey, Croatia or Ukraine.

Photo credit: IDF

Later, BulgarianMilitary.com reported that, most likely, Morocco could become the owner of the Merkava Mk3. At the time, an Arab source wrote that an agreement had already been drawn up between Rabat and Jerusalem for the purchase of 200 tanks. Morocco’s desire, according to these sources, was for the Merkava Mk3 to be the main battle tank of the Royal Moroccan Army alongside American Abrams tanks.

Although, Israel has not officially disclosed any of the assumptions of the Arab source it makes sense that Morocco would claim to be the ultimate recipient of the tanks. In recent years, Rabat and Jerusalem have built a serious relationship in different directions.

Let us recall that on August 11, 2021, an important event took place between Morocco and Israel – they signed three agreements covering political consultations, aviation, and culture. Then, in November 2021, these two nations further solidified their relationship by signing a defense agreement. Following the normalization of relations, King Mohammed VI and Israeli President Isaac Herzog initiated a form of written communication to maintain their diplomatic alliance.

Since the signing of the agreements between the two countries, Morocco has become an important customer of the Israeli defense industry. The Merkava tanks would provide Morocco with superior firepower, advanced armor protection, and technological advancements that would significantly increase its combat effectiveness and operational readiness.

Today, however, the “dream” of the Royal Land Forces is increasingly distant. The conflict that arose in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel actually blocked the possible sale for two reasons.

The first reason is that Jerusalem currently needs all weapon platforms, be it the obsolete Merkava Mk3s. It is not yet known how far they will go in the confrontation between Hamas and Israel and whether in the future new players will not appear to join the direct clashes. If this happens, every Israeli weapon will be needed, even if it is already out of the Israelis’ accounts.

The second reason is Rabat’s policy towards the conflict. When the 2023 conflict between Israel and Hamas began on October 6, Nasser Bourita, the Moroccan foreign minister, stood firm in Morocco’s unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause. A surge of solidarity flooded the streets of Morocco as countless citizens gathered to protest the Israeli occupation, raising voices for Palestine.

Objectively speaking, at the moment, the chances of Morocco getting the desired 200 tanks from Israel are decreasing by the day. but the same can be said for Abrams tanks. Yes, because Rabat wanted, in addition to 200 Merkava Mk3 tanks, to also acquire 200 Abrams tanks from the USA.

The reason this time is the war in Ukraine. At the moment, Washington does not want to rush to sell such an important weapons platform as Abrams to other countries precisely because of the war in Europe.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, the war in Ukraine dealt a double blow to Morocco. Not only did it not receive [so far] the promised tanks from the US, but the US also sent to Ukraine 45 T-72 tanks repaired by the Czech Republic, which were destined for Morocco. According to African sources, the Czech company Excalibur Army violated the agreement with Rabat and without permission, listening to the US, transferred T-72 tanks to Ukraine.

Morocco bought 136 T-72B tanks from Belarus and the Czech company had to upgrade them to T-72M standard. Rabat has so far received only 14 modernized tanks from the Czech Republic.

Thus, the hope that the Royal Moroccan Army will soon operate with modern, or at least modernized, tanks is frozen. The reason is the two wars have grabbed public attention in recent months. Here, not everything is achieved with money, even if you have it.

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