Dangerous Liaisons

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Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah dismissed Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush on Monday after she met with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen last week in Rome, a meeting that sparked protests in the war-torn country and caused controversy in Israel, Al Jazeera reported.

The diplomatic fiasco began Sunday when Cohen announced he had met Mangoush in the Italian capital in a meeting hosted by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. Cohen said he and al-Mangoush spoke about “the great potential for relations between the two countries,” the Associated Press added.

However, his statements quickly raised eyebrows in Libya and Israel.

Israeli opposition politicians and pundits criticized Cohen for breaking diplomatic norms and damaging the country’s reputation.

Libyan officials countered that Mangoush had “refused to meet with any party” representing Israel, adding that the meeting was an unplanned encounter. They also accused Israel of trying to “present this incident” as a “meeting or talks.”

But the meeting sparked demonstrations within Libya, with protesters calling for al-Mangoush’s dismissal and Dbeibah’s resignation.

Libya does not recognize Israel and has no diplomatic ties with the country. Under Libyan law, dealing with Israel is punishable by up to nine years in prison.

There have been discussions about normalizing relations between Libya and Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords that helped restore ties between Jerusalem and four Arab countries in recent years.

Even so, Libyan leaders have remained cautious about moving forward amid concerns about a public backlash in a country known for its support for the Palestinian cause.

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