Israeli lawmakers are calling for the resignation of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen after he publicly revealed his meeting with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush. Despite the absence of official ties between their countries, the ministers met in Rome last week, as disclosed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. This revelation drew sharp criticism, as Libya neither recognizes Israel nor maintains diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Libyan law from 1957 stipulates that interactions with Israel can lead to up to nine years in prison.
Cohen described the meeting as a potential first step towards future relations and discussed topics such as the preservation of the Jewish community’s heritage and the restoration of synagogues in Libya. In response, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah suspended al-Mangoush, who fled to Turkey due to safety concerns arising from the uproar in Libya.
Israeli Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli called for Cohen’s resignation, asserting that the hasty disclosure harmed the Libyan minister’s life and Israel’s international reputation. Opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz echoed these sentiments, criticizing Cohen for mishandling sensitive foreign relations and undermining Israel’s credibility. This incident has brought into question Israel’s ability to manage diplomatic affairs, especially with non-official partners in the region, as the country has sought to normalize relations with some Arab nations through the Abraham Accords.