Fallout from Rome: Libya-Israel talks stir FM suspension

Tripoli (Caasimada Online) – In a move that has jolted the diplomatic corridors of the Libyan government, Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah announced on Sunday that Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush has been “temporarily suspended” pending an “administrative investigation.”

The probe will be overseen by a commission chaired by the justice minister, as revealed in an official decision on the Prime Minister’s Facebook page.

The suspension comes after the Israeli foreign ministry disclosed that the two nations’ foreign ministers held a conversation during a meeting in Rome hosted by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.

The Libyan response: A disputed account

“The event in Rome was not a formal meeting. It was a chance, unofficial encounter during discussions with my Italian counterpart.

There was no prior discussion, agreement, or consultation with any party representing Israel,” clarified a statement from Libya’s foreign ministry.

The Libyan authority insisted that Mangoush had “refused to meet with any party” from Israel and had conveyed “clearly and unambiguously Libya’s position regarding the Palestinian cause.”

Even though Libya denied holding official talks, the revelation led to spontaneous protests in several cities. Young people took to the streets, blocking roads and waving the Palestinian flag in defiance.

Moreover, Libya’s Presidential Council—comprising three members representing the nation’s provinces—sent a letter seeking “clarifications” from the government.

“This event does not reflect Libya’s foreign policy, nor is it compliant with our national laws that criminalize normalization with the ‘Zionist entity,'” the council asserted.

The Israeli perspective: Ambitions and protests

In contrast, Israel painted a different picture of the dialogue. “I discussed with the foreign minister the enormous potential benefits for both countries from establishing relations,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.

He further mentioned that the conversation addressed “the importance of preserving the heritage of Libyan Jews, which includes renovating synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the country.”

The meeting marked the first such diplomatic engagement between the nations, and Cohen hailed Libya’s “size and strategic location” as a “huge opportunity for the State of Israel.”

This comes amid Israel’s recent diplomatic strides in the Arab world, facilitated through the U.S.-backed Abraham Accords.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has faced scathing criticism for policies in the West Bank and the expansion of Jewish settlements, causing diplomatic tensions with various Arab states.

For a country with a history of expelling its Jewish citizens under former leader Moamer Kadhafi and enduring political divisions—between a western government based in Tripoli and an eastern one led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar—the incident has fanned existing flames.

As for now, the diplomatic ripples of this disputed meeting continue to be felt both in Libya’s streets and its corridors of power, leaving the international community awaiting the outcome of Libya’s internal investigation.