Protests erupted in Libya after an informal meeting between the Libyan foreign minister, Najla al-Mangoush, and her Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen. Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has suspended Mangoush and referred her for investigation, while Israel views the meeting as a ‘historic first step’ in establishing relations.
by Fatima Abass
Israel’s Eli Cohen touted the meeting as a “historic first step” in forging a relationship between the two countries. Cohen said the meeting took place on the sidelines of a summit in Rome, discussing matters such as Israeli aid in humanitarian issues, agriculture, water management, and the protection of Jewish heritage in Libya.
In reaction to the public outcry and demonstrations, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah suspended Mangoush and initiated an investigation into her conduct. Libya’s foreign ministry clarified in a statement that Mangoush had turned down a formal meeting with Israeli representatives, describing what transpired as “an unprepared, casual encounter.” The ministry also reaffirmed its “complete and absolute rejection of normalization” with Israel.
Following the news of the meeting, minor but visible protests broke out in Tripoli and other Libyan cities, with demonstrators waving Palestinian flags, burning tires, and blocking roads.
The Presidential Council, which represents Libya’s three provinces, issued a statement declaring it illegal to normalize relations with Israel. Meanwhile, the Speaker’s Office in parliament accused Mangoush of grand treason and has called for an emergency parliamentary session to address the issue.
Libya has been mired in political turmoil and division for years, making any potential deal with Israel a complex endeavor. The country has been split between an internationally recognized government in Tripoli and a rival government led by Gen Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army in Tobruk.
Israel’s push to build closer ties with Arab and Muslim-majority nations began with the Abraham Accords in 2020. So far, Israel has established relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, despite international criticism over its actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Libya’s Presidential Council sought “clarification” on the controversial meeting, stating it “does not reflect the foreign policy of the Libyan state” and could be a violation of Libyan laws against normalizing relations with Israel.
Under former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, thousands of Jews were expelled from Libya, and many synagogues were destroyed. The council asked Prime Minister Dbeibah to “apply the law if the meeting took place,” underlining the deep-rooted tensions the episode has ignited.
(Associated Medias) – All rights reserved