Conflicts: Meeting with Israel's foreign minister sparks anger in Libya

Flaming tires and burning Israeli flags: after the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced possible cooperation with Libya, violent protests broke out there on Monday night.

Conflicts: Meeting with Israel's foreign minister sparks anger in Libya

Flaming tires and burning Israeli flags: after the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced possible cooperation with Libya, violent protests broke out there on Monday night. According to media reports, photos of the Libyan Foreign Minister were also set on fire. Her Israeli colleague Eli Cohen had surprisingly made public a "historic meeting" with her in Rome and spoke of a "first step in the relationship between Israel and Libya". Libya does not recognize Israel. Neither country maintains diplomatic relations.

Libyan government: No normalization with Israel

The Libyan government relativized the importance of the meeting after the heavy criticism in their own country. It was just an "informal" and "unprepared" meeting. The country categorically rejects a normalization of relations with Israel. According to a 1957 law, such contacts with Israel are punishable by law.

However, some observers assume that the Libyan government did indeed give its approval. In return, she is said to hope for political support from the United States. In the effectively divided country, two governments are fighting for power. Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbaiba fears being deposed. According to eyewitnesses, demonstrators are already demanding the resignation of his government. A video distributed on the Internet is also said to show how people set fire to Dbaiba's residence. The information has not yet been independently verified.

Situation in Libya uncertain

The Libya expert Jalel Harchaoui from the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) writes on Platform X (formerly Twitter) that opponents of Dbaiba used the report about the meeting and led the protests. The Libyan prime minister's enemies could hardly believe their luck and viewed his misstep as a godsend.

Should the government fall, the already ailing country could sink even further into chaos. Traffickers are already taking advantage of the civil war-torn country's political instability, which has become one of the most important transit countries for migrants. According to observers, whether more people will now make their way to Europe depends on further developments. The situation initially calmed down on Monday.

After the fall of long-term ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, a civil war broke out in Libya, with several militias struggling for power and influence. Several foreign states, including Turkey and Russia, are involved in the conflict.

Libya's Foreign Minister in Turkey

Dbaiba released the foreign minister from her duties after the heavy criticism in her own country to investigate the case. According to unconfirmed reports, she is said to have been released. Libyan media reported that she fled to Turkey on a government plane.

According to observers, the minister must now serve as a scapegoat for her government. Anas al-Gamati, founder of the Sadeq Institute think tank in Tripoli, writes that Dbaiba himself has held talks about normalization with Israel in the past. According to Arab media reports, he also met David Barnea, head of the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad.

The powerful General Chalifa Haftar, who has great influence in the east of the country, is also said to have connections to Israel. According to Al-Gamati, the protests are not just about criticism of potential relations with Israel, but also about the opaque policies of "Libya's unelected elite." The interim government was formed under the auspices of the UN and is supposed to be replaced by an elected leadership. However, the elections have not yet taken place.

Israel's foreign minister in the homeland under criticism

Israel's foreign minister's handling of the sensitive meeting also drew strong criticism in Israel. Opposition politicians accused him of causing lasting damage to Israeli foreign policy with a "hasty statement" and only disseminating it for "PR purposes." The leader of the Social Democratic Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, even called for Cohen's resignation.

However, sources close to Cohen insisted that Libyan officials knew the meeting would be made public, according to Israeli media reports.

According to observers, developments in Libya could also have a negative impact on possible talks to normalize relations with other Arab states. Opposition leader Jair Lapid wrote: "The countries of the world are looking at the irresponsible leak this morning (...) and asking themselves: is this a country we can have external relations with? Is this a country that can be trusted?" Israel is currently trying, for example with US mediation, to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.

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