Libyan political rivals slam premier over diplomatic opening with Israel

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Following revelations by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that he met with his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush last week in Italy, Libyan presidential candidate Suleiman al-Bayoudi calls to exclude the current internationally recognized prime minister Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh from the upcoming elections.

In a post on his Facebook account, al-Bayoudi accuses al-Dbeibeh, leader of a unity government, of promoting normalization with Israel to curry American favor, and says that he has “nothing but Israel’s card to throw in the face of his opponents, after playing all his other cards to continue to remain in power… Israel is the last straw he’s grasping before he drowns.”

“Relations with Israel can only be established after a national consensus has been reached within the framework of elected institutions, and with considerations to all relevant aspects, including the question of Libyan Jews,” he adds.

The meeting between the two top diplomats in Rome, which took place under the auspices of Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, was, according to presidential rival al-Bayoudi, “the confirmation that Dbeibeh intends to keep ruling without running for office.”

Al-Bayoudi calls for al-Dbeibeh’s final exclusion from the elections, for which no date has been set yet but may take place by the end of this year, according to the UN Libya envoy.

Khaled al-Mishri, a former head of Libya’s High State Council affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, also expresses his condemnation of the top-level meeting between Libya and Israel, suggesting that it is probably not the first one, and saying that the “Dbeibeh government has crossed all red lines and must be overthrown,” according to the news website al-Anwan al-Libiya.

Meanwhile, Raphael Faelino Luzon, chairman of the Union of Libyan Jews, writes on his Facebook profile in Arabic that “a lot of work took place behind the scenes to reach this agreement,” sparking speculations among the Libyan press that he may have played a role in organizing the meeting.

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