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Libya dismisses foreign minister after outcry over Israeli meeting

TJI Wrap
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Libya dismisses foreign minister after outcry over Israeli meeting

Published: 1 September 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The diplomatic storm could have implications for Israel’s relations with other Arab countries.

Libya’s government dismissed Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush on Sunday after a meeting she held with her Israeli counterpart sparked an uproar in the country.

Israel’s foreign ministry announced on Sunday night that the meeting had taken place in Rome last week.

The Libyan foreign ministry rejected reports that the meeting was officially sanctioned and said in a statement that it was “informal,” “unprepared” and “did not include negotiations or consultations.”

It added that Mangoush “reaffirmed Libya’s principles towards the Palestinian cause in a clear and unambiguous manner.”

Libya does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and normalisation of ties remains a controversial issue in the country. Videos circulating on social media over the weekend showed Libyan protesters burning Israeli flags and attempting to enter the gates of a government building in Tripoli.

An Israeli source said the meeting with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was planned, and news that it had taken place was supposed to be made public at some point.

Diplomats in Arab countries and the US believe that the turmoil surrounding the meeting between the Israeli and Libyan foreign ministers will impact attempts to promote normalisation between Israel and other Arab and Muslim countries in the near future.

One senior diplomat representing an Arab country that has ties with Israel said the event will weaken other countries’ trust in Israeli officials.

"The demonstrations in the streets of Libya will have an impact," the diplomat said, "Some countries will lose courage as a result. No leader wants to see images like those [of turmoil in Libya] in his capital."

Israel is  working with the Biden administration toward a diplomatic breakthrough with Saudi Arabia while simultaneously trying to expand ties with other Arab and Muslim countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a directive on Tuesday requiring all secret diplomatic gatherings to be approved by his office. He also demanded that the publicising of any covert diplomatic meetings must first be given a green light by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The directive appeared to be an attempt by Netanyahu to distance himself from the storm set off by the Libyan contact.

Libya dismisses foreign minister after meeting with Israeli counterpart causes outcry (CNN)

US, Arab Diplomats: Turmoil in Libya after Israeli minister meeting could deter Arab countries from normalisation (Haaretz)  

Seeking distance from Libya debacle, Netanyahu says he must approve any secret talks (Times of Israel)

Torn between militias, Libya is a hornet's nest – and far from relations with Israel (Zvi Bar-el, Haaretz)
Israel's Foreign Minister was quick to tell of a meeting with his Libyan counterpart, but the government to which she belongs does not rule the country alone. Israel is not a partner in efforts to stabilisze Libya, and its help is not required.

Image: Libya's sacked foreign finister Najla al-Mangoush  in 2021 (RYAD KRAMDI – AFP)

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