Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah suspended Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush after news broke of her recent informal meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. The encounter ignited protests in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Protesters took to the streets, blocking roads, burning tires, and waving Palestinian flags. However, the protests remained relatively limited in scale.

The Libyan government has no formal relations with Israel. The meeting between Mangoush and Cohen was the first known high-level contact between the two countries since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.

The Abraham Accords normalised relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

However, Libya did not follow suit.

Libyan Prime Minister Dbeibah has also ordered an investigation into Mangoush’s actions. The investigation will look into whether Mangoush violated any laws or regulations by meeting with Cohen. It will also look at whether she misled the Libyan government about the nature of the meeting.

Libya’s presidential council issued a statement deeming any normalisation of ties with Israel unlawful, citing historical grievances and ongoing conflicts in the region. The Parliament Speaker’s Office accuses Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush of grand treason.

Meanwhile, Libya’s foreign ministry stated that Mangoush had declined a planned meeting with Israel. The encounter in question was merely an impromptu incident that occurred during a summit in Rome. The interaction, the ministry maintained, did not result in any significant discussions, agreements, or consultations.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen hailed the informal meeting as a positive and significant initial step towards establishing diplomatic relations.

Cohen said the discussion revolved around several key topics. These included the possibility of Israeli aid for humanitarian causes in Libya, cooperation in the fields of agriculture and water management, and the preservation of Jewish heritage within Libya. Cohen also mentioned plans for the renovation of synagogues and cemeteries, acknowledging the historical presence of Jewish communities in the country.

Libya’s political landscape is marked by ongoing turmoil, evident in a split between the internationally recognised government in Tripoli and a rival government in the east. This division traces back to the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi 12 years ago. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar, governs the rival government in Tobruk.

Israel’s recent efforts to forge closer ties with nations in the Middle East began with the 2020 Abraham Accords. The Accords aimed to encourage countries that had been historically hostile to Israel to acknowledge its sovereignty and establish diplomatic relations.

The Abraham Accords reshaped the dynamics of the region. However, the Israeli government faced international censure for activities like West Bank settlement construction and military actions in the Palestinian territories.

The incident involving Najla al-Mangoush and Eli Cohen signifies Israel’s continued pursuit of these diplomatic connections, even as Libya’s opposition to normalisation remains strong.

During the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s foreign policy was strongly aligned with the Palestinian cause.