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Behind closed doors: The secret meetings that may lead to Libyan-Israeli normalization

Behind closed doors: The secret meetings that may lead to Libyan-Israeli normalization

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Politics The Truth

Wednesday 6 September 202305:01 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

بدأت في الأردن ولم تنتهِ في روما... "طبخة" التطبيع الليبي- الإسرائيلي من الألف إلى الياء

The recent meeting between the Libyan Foreign Minister, Najla El-Mangoush, and her Israeli counterpart was not much different from the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, with its effects continuing to reverberate for days. Just two hours in the Italian capital Rome were sufficient to set Libya ablaze, in the east, south and west, and make headlines around the world. Yet, amid all the speculation, two paramount questions emerge: Have the details and motives behind this meeting been revealed? Is the Dbeibeh government so naïve as to disregard the potential consequences of this on the Libyan people? The unequivocal answer is no.

Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, the head of the Government of National Unity, isn't oblivious to the ramifications of his actions. He has even prepared himself well for protests, public outrage, and even the disapproval of international allies, like the United States, which considers Dbeibeh one of its men in western Libya. However, at this critical juncture in Libya's tumultuous journey, what holds paramount importance for the engineer (Dbeibeh) is the culmination of a deal with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. His ultimate goal is to ensure the satisfaction of the United States which would be secured through a series of normalization meetings. This is confirmed by the UN envoy’s backtracking on his negative position regarding the Dbeibeh government during his recent address to the Security Council. In a matter of days, the Senegalese envoy then made supportive remarks regarding the head of the Government of National Unity, fortifying his grip on power. Let's delve into the origins of this intricate tale, drawing from reliable, well-informed sources.

Two hours in Rome that brought together Libya's Foreign Minister and Israeli officials, were sufficient to set Libya ablaze, in the east, south and west, and make headlines around the world.

Libyan officials deeply embroiled in the normalization deal

Coordination efforts had commenced four months earlier, with key players like Ibrahim Dbeibeh, the Prime Minister's nephew and chief negotiator, acting as his uncle's right-hand man, as well as Walid Al-Lafi, the Minister of Communications and the chief media overseer in western Libya. Alongside them were Abdul Basit Al-Badri, Libya's Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with affiliations in the east, and Ramadan Boujnah, Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, and Abdel-Majid Meligta, a member of the Political Dialogue Forum. Together, they convened in secret with the Deputy Head of Israeli Intelligence in Jordan, facilitated by Libya's Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom, Abdel-Basit Al-Badri (a name worth remembering for later). In this clandestine meeting, an agreement was struck, outlining compensation that the Dbeibeh government would provide to Libyan Jews and preparations for their return to Libya. In return, they would use their influence to sway the international community and mediate with the United States to extend the term of the Government of National Unity.

Secret meetings that preceded the Rome meeting

The Jordanian meeting concluded without yielding tangible outcomes, concrete resolutions, or even commitments to normalize relations from the Libyan side. It was scheduled for a revival in Greece two and a half months later, as is what indeed transpired. This session included an envoy from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Deputy Head of Israeli Intelligence. The Libyan delegation was joined by Omar Ikrami, who happens to be Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh's son-in-law. Significantly, the coordination for this Italian meet-up unfolded without the knowledge or prior consultation of Najla El-Mangoush.

The Rome meeting between El-Mangoush and Cohen, which took place on August 23rd, would not have occurred were it not for the rapid developments unfolding in the capital and the rather embarrassing predicaments that Dbeibeh found himself ensnared within. He lost not only his political footing but also his aura of authority when influential figures from Misrata rallied against him. In a convened meeting, these prominent individuals demanded his resignation and urged for decisive actions to be taken against him. They vehemently decried the rampant corruption that had long surpassed acceptable thresholds. Furthermore, they stressed that Libya's human rights dossier had grown too weighty to ignore, given the government's heavy-handed tactics and the suppression of voices that had spiraled beyond the limits of reason, and violated the dignity, freedoms, and rights of the Libyan populace.

They went a step further, attributing blame to Dbeibeh for the actions and practices of his government and continually emphasizing his allegiance to Misrata in the media and during his visits there. In this rhetoric, a clear distinction was drawn between his government and the will of Misrata, as they asserted that Dbeibeh's administration did not represent them, it rather rules over specific points and is under the control of spreading militia groups.

Former Israeli minister: "All Libyan officials I met, whose names I won't divulge even though they're well-known in their country, made assurances that if they emerge victorious in the elections, they will be advocating for economic cooperation with Israel"

The conflict between Dbeibeh and Saleh rages in Misrata

The political significance and symbolism of Misrata in Libya is readily apparent to anyone closely monitoring Libyan affairs. This dealt a severe blow to Dbeibeh, and he attempted to counteract it by orchestrating a military parade specifically in Misrata, just one day after protests were held against him. However, he was caught off guard when the Deterrence Apparatus forces stormed his aircraft and abducted the commander of Brigade 444, Mahmoud Hamza, from the seat next to the Prime Minister's. Dbeibeh was left without recourse to object or condemn, continuing his journey while leaving behind a catastrophe that ignited clashes between the Deterrence Forces and the 444th Brigade, leading to the loss of over 50 Libyan lives. This marked the second blow that saw Dbeibeh lose public trust, political support, and media backing, despite his vehement denial of the entire incident.

Following these developments, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh finds himself increasingly isolated on the domestic front, particularly with House of Representatives Speaker Aguila Saleh clandestinely holding meetings with prominent figures from Misrata to form a new government as a replacement for the current one. It was at this juncture that Ibrahim Dbeibeh, the chief negotiator and mastermind behind his uncle, swiftly organized a meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister, setting in motion a persuasive campaign to bring Najla El-Mangoush on board, even though she initially rebuffed the idea but acquiesced when they convinced her it would be a swift and discreet meeting.

Cohen didn't promise the Libyan delegation any immediate outcomes. They concurred that this was an initial step towards normalization, and he promised to study the possibility of supporting Dbeibeh's government and convincing the international community

Why did Al-Lafi leak the details of the Rome meeting?

Cohen didn't promise the Libyan delegation any immediate outcomes during their meeting. They concurred that this meeting was an initial step towards normalization, and he promised to consider supporting Dbeibeh's government and convincing the international community, and respond at a later time. This didn't reassure Ibrahim Dbeibeh, who decided to leak the details of the meeting, entrusting this task to Walid Al-Lafi, who executed it effectively, sparking uproar and igniting protests in Tripoli.

Instead of Al-Mangoush.. A new Foreign Minister from Al-Rajma

Initially, it may seem that the Government of National Unity has lost the bet and hammered the final nail into its coffin, sealing its own fate. However, behind the scenes, the situation is quite different. Despite public frustration from Washington, the Israeli government's wavering stance, and the Libyan people's anger, the reality is quite the opposite. Dbeibeh gained approval and killed two birds with one stone. Insiders from the Government of National Unity have disclosed that removing Najla El-Mangoush has been planned for some time. Abdul Basit Al-Badri, Libya's Ambassador to Jordan, who hails from Al-Rajma, will be appointed as her replacement. This decision allows Ibrahim Dbeibeh to uphold his agreement with Khalifa Haftar. After designating Fathi Ben Qadoura, a Haftar loyalist, to lead the National Oil Corporation, a Foreign Minister from Al-Rajma is the next anticipated move. If they engage in disputes, they damage the yield; if they reconcile, they reap the rewards. Despite these covert agreements and arrangements, the government recently opted to withdraw the dismissal notice for El-Mangoush from the official government website, announcing that she is under investigation and suspended. This suggests intervention from pro-El-Mangoush factions, potentially from Washington, which supports the normalization process and refuses to abandon her.

The Jews of Libya.. A forgotten presence

For Dbeibeh, the Libyan Jews issue has never been a priority. Instead, he's used it as a strategic maneuver whenever he seeks international favor. This viewpoint is shared by Raphael Luzon, the leader of the Libyan Jewish Union, who remarks to Raseef22, "I doubt that Dbeibeh has engaged with Israelis out of genuine concern for the welfare of Libyan Jews. If he did, it was likely just to provide himself with an excuse before public opinion for meeting with them."

Luzon goes on to say, "We've made several attempts to reach out to him, but he consistently declined. He never displayed any willingness to address the issues facing Libyan Jews. It's up to us, the Jewish community, to directly engage with Libyan authorities regarding our concerns, rather than involving Israel."

Secret meetings and daily coordination with Israel

Former Israeli Minister of Communications, Ayoob Kara, confirms our earlier discussion regarding clandestine meetings between Israeli officials and their Libyan counterparts. Kara explains, "We maintain daily interactions" with key individuals from Libya, though "we typically refrain from disclosing specific details, such as names or motives, as there's currently no vested interest in doing so." He further emphasizes, "We'll wait for a permanent government to collaborate with, but Israel's interest lies elsewhere; it's Dbeibah who is keen on our engagement."

Kara concludes, "All the Libyan officials I've met, and I won't mention their names to avoid any embarrassment, as they're well-known in their own country, have made assurances. If they win in the upcoming elections, they'll be counted among those advocating for economic cooperation with Israel, just as we've seen in the UAE, Sudan, and Morocco."

The relentless pursuit of normalization by Libyan governments is nothing but a political tactic to stay in power and perpetuate the crisis for the benefit of a select few who wield authority and wealth. We have only presented a glimpse of the events preceding the Cohen-Mangoush meeting that recently made headlines. These negotiations began long ago, particularly when William Burns, Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), visited Libya earlier this year. He held meetings with Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh in Tripoli and then flew to Al-Rajma, where he met with Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Burns didn't propose normalization to Dbeibeh, our sources suggest that it was Dbeibeh who initiated the dialogue. Burns, however, didn't provide an immediate response. This is when international mediation entered the scene, which Dbeibeh sought its assistance in coordinating normalization talks at the highest level.

This continued until the recent meeting that ignited public outrage and placed the Dbeibah government at a crossroads. Now, he faces a pivotal choice: either successfully navigate the political storm, secure international support (especially from the White House), and uphold his agreement with Marshal Haftar and his sons — which hinges on the sharing of the state's budget and the preservation of the country's current state of affairs — or succumb to the pressure from the streets and political rivals, leading to the downfall of his government. This would clear the way for a new unified government capable of overseeing the long-awaited elections, a process that has been halted for nearly two years due to force majeure.

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