The office of Libya's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Najla Mohammed El Mangoush, put out a statement on Monday, after the diplomatic storm brought about by her Rome meeting with Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen. The statement claimed the meeting was authorized in advance by Libyan Prime Minister, Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, according to a report by Lebanese TV network Al-Mayadeen.
"Prime Minister Dbeibeh met with Italian Prime Minister Meloni, and agreed that this ministerial (with Cohen) would take place," the statement read. "Dbeibeh asked his foreign minister to claim that the meeting was accidental in order to prevent embarrassment. After she complied, he suspended her," the ministry said adding that the ousted minister has documents to back her position and will not be a victim.
The Lybian ministry also said El Mangoush was adamant in her position that the Palestinian issue must be adequately resolved before any official ties between the nations could even be brought up.
Dbeibeh paid a visit to the Palestinian embassy in Tripoli accompanied by some members of his cabinet. The Palestinian Authority said it welcomed the visit and the Lybian prime minister's message that his government would refuse to normalize diplomatic relations with an occupier and that no other Lybian official would be allowed to meet with representatives of the State of Israel.
Officials in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem criticized the way in which the Rome meeting, was handled. Making it known publically, led to riots in Libya and to El Mangoush's suspension. The officials called the ministry's conduct "amateurish".
"Countries that have no official ties with Israel would be apprehensive about secret meetings in the future after it has been proven that Israel was unable to keep a secret," the official said. "There are unofficial contacts ongoing in hopes of creating bilateral ties with certain nations. When Israeli credibility is compromised, it foils attempts for future official ties with these countries. The minister just shot himself in the foot."
Another official, speaking for Cohen said that the meeting in Rome was agreed by both sides. "It was decided in advance the meeting would take place in the Italian Foreign Ministry guest house and Minister Cohen flew to Italy, especially for that purpose. It was a historic meeting that would enable Libya to receive Western recognition and was authorized by the Libyan government. The meeting was supposed to be announced publically but there's strong opposition in Libya. A similar incident happened with Sudan when their Foreign Ministry spokesperson was suspended after a meeting with Israel."
News of the meeting between the Lybian and Israeli ministers sparked outrage in Libya with protesters taking to the streets and calling for the ouster of the prime minister.
After El Mangoush flew to Istanbul, the Libyan ministry of foreign affairs said the meeting was impromptu, and that in her meeting with Foreign Minister Cohen, El Mangoush was defiant in her stance that the Palestinian issue must be adequately resolved before any official ties between the nations could even be brought up.
Members of the opposition slammed the conduct of the Foreign Ministry. "Israel's foreign affairs are a sensitive matter, especially in regards to talks with Arab nations that we have no official ties with, National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz said. "When you're more concerned with PR than you are with thinking ahead, this is what happens. Whether it's foreign affairs, security, the economy, or education, the Netanyahu government is sloppy and must come to an end."
Former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yair Lapid said the ministry showed it was run by amateurs who were irresponsible and negligent. "Countries around the world have their eyes set on this irresponsible leak and they're asking themselves if Israel is a country you can have official ties with and whether it's trustworthy," Lapid said. "This is a national disgrace designed for nothing more than grabbing headlines."