US livid with Israel for disclosing ‘secret’ meeting with Libyan foreign minister – report

U.S. officials warned Israel that such indiscretions will dissuade other nations from pursuing normalization with Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

The Biden administration is furious with Jerusalem for disclosing last week’s purportedly clandestine meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Libya, Israeli media reported on Monday.

The meeting, described as “historic” by Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, took place in Rome. Following the disclosure, Najla Mangoush faced immediate backlash from both her government and protesters in Libya, culminating in her dismissal by Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh earlier on Monday. Mangoush has since reportedly fled to Turkey over concerns for her safety.

The Biden administration, which was aware of the meeting and had reportedly encouraged Libya to participate, believed that it was to be a clandestine gathering. According to multiple Hebrew media sources, U.S. officials warned Israel that such indiscretions will dissuade other nations from pursuing normalization with Israel.

“It killed the channel of talks with Libya and made our efforts to promote normalization with other countries much more difficult,” one U.S. official was cited as saying by veteran Israeli reporter Barak Ravid.

Both the U.S. embassy in Israel and the Israeli Foreign Ministry have refrained from commenting.

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Sunday’s announcement of the meeting prompted scattered protests in Tripoli and other towns in western Libya. Protesters stormed the foreign ministry headquarters to condemn the meeting, while others attacked and burned a residence for the prime minister in Tripoli, according to local reports.

In the town of Zawiya protesters burned the Israeli flag, while others held the Palestinian flag. There were also protests in the city of Misrata, a stronghold for Dbeibah, according to footage circulated on social media and verified by The Associated Press.

Khalid al-Mishri, an Islamist politician who was the chair of the State Council, a Tripoli-based legislative body, condemned the meeting and called for the dismissal of Dbeibah’s government, which is close to the U.S. and the West.

“This government has crossed all prohibited lines and must be brought down,” he wrote on the X platform, previously known as Twitter.

Dbeibeh visited the Palestinian embassy in Tripoli after dismissing Mangoush, reaffirming Libya’s stance against normalization with Israel. The prime minister reiterated his unawareness of the meeting with Cohen, even as senior Libyan officials told the Associated Press that Dbeibeh was informed about the discussions.

Dbeibeh’s knowledge of the talks has further been corroborated by two senior Libyan officials who claim that Dbeibeh approved the meeting in Rome. The officials, speaking anonymously with the news wire, also linked the meeting to U.S.-mediated efforts for Libya to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

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Cohen said he had discussed the importance of preserving the heritage of Libya’s former Jewish community with his Libyan counterpart, including renovating synagogues and cemeteries. The talks also touched on possible Israeli assistance for humanitarian issues, agriculture and water management, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

The abrupt disclosure of the meeting by Cohen has been widely criticized in Israel, with leaders and diplomats condemning the potential damage to Israel’s foreign relations. Opposition Leader Yair Lapid described the incident as “amateurish, irresponsible, and a major failure of judgment.” Labor party leader Merav Michaeli was even more direct, stating that Cohen “needs to resign” due to the “unprecedented harm” caused.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry since tried to play down the meeting, calling it “unprepared and an unofficial meeting during a meeting with Italy’s foreign minister.” It said in a statement that Mangoush’s encounter with Cohen didn’t include “any talks, agreements or consultations.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.