Libya Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Al-Dbeibeh has suspended the country’s foreign minister, Najla Mangoush following an informal meeting with the Israeli foreign minister, Eli Cohen.
The meeting between both foreign ministers who are sworn enemies had given rise to protests, reflecting the complexities of diplomatic relations in the region.
The backdrop to this development lies in Libya’s steadfast refusal to recognize Israel, driven by its unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.
This latest meeting, viewed as a breach of this stance, has prompted public demonstrations and impassioned reactions.
Cohen hailed the meeting with al-Mangoush as a groundbreaking baby step towards establishing relations between the two nations.
Israel has been actively pursuing closer ties with various Arab and Muslim-majority countries, aiming to expand its regional alliances.
The potential of forging stronger connections with oil-rich Libya is of particular strategic interest.
Prime Minister Dbeibah’s response to the meeting has been decisive. Aside from suspending al-Mangoush from her position, he also requested an investigation into the matter.
Eli Cohen has revealed that the meeting took place on the sidelines of a summit in Rome.
He outlined discussions encompassing a range of topics, from humanitarian aid and agriculture to water management and the preservation of Jewish heritage within Libya, including plans for the restoration of synagogues and cemeteries.
Libya foreign ministry, on the other hand, has refuted claims of an arranged meeting with Israeli representatives.
They insist that the encounter was an unanticipated, casual happening during a larger meeting at Italy’s foreign affairs ministry.
The ministry’s statement emphasized the absence of any formal discussions, agreements, or consultations during the encounter. Furthermore, it reiterated Libya’s staunch rejection of any normalization with Israel.
News of the unofficial meeting swiftly triggered protests in the capital of Libya, Tripoli, and other cities, marked by road blockades, tire burnings, and the prominent display of Palestinian flags.
While the scale of the protests remained relatively contained, the incident has ignited passionate conversations about the trajectory of Libyan foreign policy.
The political landscape of Libya is a threat to any potential diplomatic developments with nations such as Israel.
The nation has been grappling with internal turmoil, evident in the division between the internationally recognized interim government based in Tripoli and its rival counterpart in the eastern regions.
This schism, which emerged following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi over a decade ago, poses a significant challenge to any potential agreements between Israel and Libya.
The East’s rival government, led by General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA), presents an obstacle to cohesive decision-making and unified foreign policy. The longstanding political divisions complicate any potential negotiations or diplomatic initiatives.
The initiation of Israel’s charm offensive traces back to the 2020 Abraham Accords, which aimed to foster diplomatic relations between Israel and traditionally adversarial nations.
Israel has successfully pursued this route with countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.
However, Israel’s actions have drawn criticism for its continued construction of settlements in the West Bank and its military operations within Palestinian territories.
As tensions simmer in the aftermath of the Libyan foreign minister’s meeting with her Israeli counterpart, Libya’s Presidential Council has requested clarification from the government regarding the incident.
The Council, responsible for both state functions and military matters, expressed its concern that the meeting contradicted Libyan foreign policy and violated national principles.
It urged the Prime Minister to enforce the law should the meeting’s occurrence be confirmed.
The historical context adds depth to Libya’s stance. During Gaddafi’s rule, the country was known for its strong support of the Palestinian cause.
Under his leadership, thousands of Jews were expelled from Libya, and numerous synagogues were razed to the ground, reflecting a chapter of tumultuous relations with Israel.