The statement by the office of Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on August 26 of a covert meeting with the Libyan foreign minister, which triggered protests in Tripoli, was met with displeasure by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
When questioned about the statement, Netanyahu said, “It is not helpful; now that’s clear,” according to Reuters.
The premier added, “I’ve given instructions to all our government ministers that such meetings of this kind have to be approved in advance with my office, and obviously their publication has to be approved in advance with my office.
According to Netanyahu, Israel has taken care not to disclose the “innumerable confidential contacts” that have taken place between Israeli and Arab leaders. This is an unusual circumstance.
On August 22, Cohen met with Najla Mangoush, the foreign minister of Libya. The United States and Italy are said to have mediated the conference, which took place in Rome.
The two-hour meeting covered topics like diplomatic ties, agricultural and scientific collaboration, and the potential inclusion of Libya in the Negev Forum, a development of the Abraham Accords.
The North African nation, which does not recognize Israel, was outraged when news of the encounter spread.
Mangoush was first suspended, then sacked, and is said to have fled to Turkey out of fear for his safety as protesters filled the streets of Tripoli and other cities. The political gaffe was seized upon by Israel’s opposition. “The global community is looking this morning at Israel’s irresponsible leak of the Libyan foreign minister’s meeting and asking themselves: Is this a country with which we can conduct foreign relations?” wrote Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid Party, on X. Is this a nation that one can rely on? ”
Announcing to JNS that it was up against a brick wall and about to be revealed, the administration defended its choice to make the meeting public.
According to Israeli officials speaking to JNS, “a journalist had information on the meeting and was about to publish it, so we had no choice.”
The dominant story, however, seems to be that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was keen to make the statement, while the Libyans wanted no mention of the meeting in Rome.
In the statement, Cohen stated that the meeting was historic and a starting step. The relationship between Israel and Libya has a lot of promise. Everyone now agrees that Cohen’s action was unproductive and has temporarily cut off diplomatic relations with Libya.