Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush, who has faced criticism over a meeting with her Israeli counterpart, has been fired, according to senior government sources.
In a report from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina said that sources close to Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah reported on al-Mangoush’s sacking after previously announcing an investigation into her meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Rome last week .
Al-Mangoush has been the subject of much speculation since Cohen’s announcement yesterday, which sparked major protests across Libya, including rumors that she had left the country.
Libya’s Internal Security Service responded by dismissing reports that it had allowed or facilitated her exit and announced that she was on the list of those barred from travel.
The announcement angered the Israelis
The political row erupted on Sunday after Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the two countries’ top diplomats met last week at a meeting hosted by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani.
“I spoke to the Foreign Minister about the great potential for the two countries in their relationship,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, adding that it was the first such diplomatic initiative between the two countries .
The news was not well received in Israel, with commentators noting that Cohen’s behavior was a violation of acceptable diplomatic practice.
A diplomatic farce in Israel today:
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen held a secret meeting with his Libyan counterpart in Rome last week. Today he decided to make the meeting public. The result: the Libyan Foreign Minister was dismissed and investigations were launched against her
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 27, 2023
Israeli broadcaster Channel 12 commented that Cohen’s announcement had seriously damaged Israel’s credibility.
Opposition politician Yair Lapid agreed, saying on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Cohen’s actions have caused countries to doubt Israel’s suitability as a foreign relations partner.
1/3 What is the reason? Why isn’t that the case?
זה מה שקורה כשממנים את אלי כהן, אדם בלי שום רקע בתחום, לשר חוץ רק לשנ ה >> pic.twitter.com/fArQxU0MQ4
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid (@yairlapid) August 28, 2023
Translation: A third of the world’s countries are looking this morning at the irresponsible exposure of the Israel-Libya foreign ministers’ meeting and wondering: is this a country with which we can have foreign relations? Is this a country you can trust? That’s what happens when you appoint Eli Cohen, a person with no experience in this field, to be Secretary of State for just a year.
Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said: “[An Israeli] The Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was a coordinated meeting, it was not a chance encounter, it was a deliberate, face-to-face meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister who was present.”
He added that Israel’s Foreign Ministry also said there had been a consultation between the two sides on the content of an announcement, but the timing had not been agreed, surprising the Libyan side when Cohen made his statement.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry said al-Mangoush “refused to meet with any party” representing Israel and that the meeting “was an accidental and unofficial meeting… that did not involve any discussion, agreement or consultation.” It also accused Israel of attempting to present “this incident” as “meetings or talks.”
The North African country does not recognize Israel and does not maintain diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Under a 1957 Libyan law, dealing with Israel is punishable by up to nine years in prison.
road to normalization?
According to the Associated Press, an anonymous Libyan government official said the normalization of Libya-Israel relations was first discussed at a meeting with Dbeibah and CIA Director William Burns, who visited the Libyan capital in January.
According to the official, Burns suggested that the government of Dbeibah, believed to be the internationally-backed government of Libya, should join the group of four Arab countries that had normalized ties with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 .
The Libyan prime minister initially agreed but expressed concern at the public backlash in a country known for its support of the Palestinian cause, the official said.
On Monday, an Israeli official told Reuters that the meeting between al-Mangoush and Cohen had been arranged in advance “at the highest level” in Libya and lasted more than an hour.
Separately, Israel’s former foreign minister and prime minister, Yair Lapid, criticized Cohen for publicizing the sensitive meeting.
“Countries around the world are watching the irresponsible leak of the meeting of the Israeli and Libyan foreign ministers this morning and are wondering: Is it possible to settle foreign relations with this country? Can this country be trusted?” Lapid said in a statement .
Israel has normalized relations with some Arab countries in recent years under US-backed deals known as the Abraham Accords.
However, the hard-line government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under heavy criticism from Arab states because of the increasing violence in the occupied West Bank and support for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
Dbeibeh had replaced al-Mangoush with Fathallah al-Zani, the current youth minister, as interim foreign minister.
Videos on social media showed demonstrations in front of the Foreign Ministry building in Tripoli on Sunday evening, demanding the dismissal of al-Mangoush. Some protesters also called for Dbeibah’s resignation and set fire to his Tripoli residence.
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina said: “Protesters in al-Zawiya demanded the overthrow of the entire government because of this meeting, and in Tajoura and Soug al-Jumaa people blocked roads and burned tires. We saw other protests in Misrata.”
Traina said both lawmakers, the Tripoli-based High Council of State and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), had condemned the meeting and called for an emergency session to discuss it, with the HoR describing the meeting as a “crime committed against the Libyan people.” .
Earlier on Sunday evening, the Libyan Presidential Council asked the government for “clarifications,” Libya Al Ahrar TV reported, citing spokeswoman Najwa Wheba.
The Presidential Council, which has some executive powers and emerged from the political process supported by the United Nations, consists of three members representing the three Libyan regions.
Their motion states that the meeting “does not reflect the foreign policy of the Libyan state, does not reflect Libya’s national constants and is viewed as violating Libyan laws criminalizing normalization with the ‘Zionist entity’.”