Foreign Minister of the Government of National Unity Najla Al-Mangoush fled to Turkey after angry protests over her meeting with her Israeli counterpart

Protesters burning Israeli flags

Angry protests swept through Libya’s western region on Sunday night to denounce a secret meeting between Foreign Minister of the Government of National Unity Najla Al-Mangoush and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, held in Rome last week.

Shortly after the news of the meeting was reported by Israeli media, a wave of protesters went to the streets and roads in almost every city in the western region where the Government of the National Unity has power, burning tyres and photos of Al-Mangoush and Israeli flags, chanting anti-Libyan government and Jews slogans and demanding immediate dismissal and punishment of the minister.

A group of protesters also stormed the exterior gate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but they were prevented from accessing the main building by security guards.

The Presidential Council, the House of Representatives, the High Council of State, the Fatwa House, Justice and Construction Party, Taghyeer Party, and Yabiladi Party condemned the meeting and demanded deterrent measures against Al-Mangoush, emphasizing that the Palestinian cause is among Libya’s constants and describing her meeting as a crime against the Libyan people. 

Reacting to the wave of anger and protests, the Libyan Foreign Ministry said the meeting between Foreign Minister Najla Al-Mangoush and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was an informal and unprepared one, which took place during a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister in Rome, and it did not include any discussions or consultations.

Libya has a law in force that calls for boycotting Israel. Article 7 of the law stipulates: “imprisonment from 3 to 10 years and a fine not exceeding 5,000 dinars as punishment for anyone who concludes an agreement with any kind of organization or person residing in Israel or belonging to it by nationality or working for it”.

To defuse the growing tension, Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeiba suspended Al-Mangoush and appointed Fathallah Zanni, the current Youth Minister, in his place.  He also referred her to an investigation panel, but Al-Mangoush was quick to escape and leave the country on a private jet to Turkey.