Dr Mohammad Makram Balawi
The revelation by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of August about a secret meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart Najla Al-Mangoush in Rome has sparked strong internal and external reactions despite the absence of diplomatic relations between the two parties. This led to Cohen being summoned by the US ambassador to Israel, handing him the US administration’s protest against the leak and accusing the Israeli government of undermining Washington’s efforts to promote normalisation with other countries.
The Libyan public’s anger and rejection of normalisation with the Zionist state in all its aspects, and the buzz created by this leak, reveal that the occupying state does not rely on itself to enhance its presence and relations with other countries. Instead, it is always linked and dependent on external factors, whether the European colonial powers that established it or current sponsorship by the US. The normalisation of Arab and Islamic countries with the occupation regime came under pressure from the US, and without its pressures and temptations, these countries would not have recognised Israel and established relations with it. Therefore, we could understand the significant annoyance of the US administration over this leak and its accusation of Cohen undermining its efforts.
The dispute over this leak is not the first, as the relationship between the current ruling elite in the Zionist state, which has become an extremist right-wing religious state, and the Zionist circles in the US – whether Jewish or non-Jewish – is characterised by a state of severe tension stemming from the US and Western Zionist elite’s vision that the Israelis are trying to change the nature that was established for the State of Israel.
This elite is attempting to modify the behaviour of the Israeli government, which has become more religious in the traditional sense and distant from the Western model. Nevertheless, the US and Western elites continue to persistently support the occupation diplomatically, economically and militarily because it is, in essence, a Western project. There is no better evidence of this than the statement by US President Joe Biden during his meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog: “If Israel did not exist, we would have to invent it.” Despite this dispute, the Biden administration continues to exert pressure on Arab and Islamic countries to normalise relations with the Zionist state.
US anger is completely justified because it endangers Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh’s government and may cause internal instability in a country that can hardly be described as stable. It is difficult to believe that the Libyan foreign minister conducted the meeting on her own initiative. However, the leak of the event and the angry reactions and fear of its impact on the unstable Libyan scene have led the prime minister to blame Al-Mangoush.
We can understand the Libyan prime minister’s initiative to absorb the anger resulting from the leak by talking about forming an investigation committee and visiting the Palestinian Embassy in Tripoli, where he announced the dismissal of Al-Mangoush. It demonstrates that normalisation with the occupation is not a popular or natural choice, but rather a choice made by an elite who believes the US holds all the cards.
Establishing relations with the occupation state aims to improve relations with Washington for local considerations. We have seen a similar situation in Sudan after the fall of former President Omar Al-Bashir’s regime, where various Sudanese leaders, including the head of the Sudanese Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, rushed to receive Israeli delegations, exchange visits and establish relations. However, this only resulted in further instability, plunging the country into a fierce internal war.
Although the Sudanese leadership had hoped for economic improvement and legitimacy for the ruling system through normalisation and improving relations with the US, the opposite happened. We can confidently say Sudan is going through the worst phase in its history.
This leads us to say, without a doubt, that the decision of normalisation lacks popular legitimacy and will have serious internal repercussions on the governing system in the medium and long term. This is because the Israeli regime is a retrogressive, racist system born out of colonialism, and the peoples of the region are fed up with colonisation and its tools, as we currently witness in some sub-Saharan countries, which have also created a reality where tens of thousands of Arab youth lose hope and turn to migration or violence.
Apart from the internal political reality in Arab and Muslim countries, the Arab system of failure will ultimately lead to radical changes that may be more devastating than the Arab Spring. We will see that normalisation will become futile at that point. We witnessed dozens of African countries that established relations with Israel, freezing their ties during confrontations with the Gamal Abdel Nasser regime, and it took years to restore them. During the October 1973 war, Israel lost most of those relationships with African countries, reducing the number of countries with diplomatic relations to only five, compared to the previous 32.
We also see that Arab countries that previously normalised with the occupation have gained nothing. If the situation in the Arab and Islamic world becomes stable and democratic, we will see that relations with Israel will collapse like a house of cards because they are unnatural and not based on national interests.
This behaviour of revealing Israel’s secret relationships aims to exploit and invest in it for electoral purposes and gain more popularity among the Israeli public. We have seen Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu do this before, even speaking about secret relationships he did not disclose for the same reason. Some of these relationships were woven decades before Netanyahu, but the personal dimension of Israeli politicians does not prevent them from attributing the achievements of others to themselves and exaggerating them, as Cohen did when he spoke about imminent relations with Saudi Arabia despite statements to the contrary from the US administration. Israeli politicians are self-centred, and all they care about is reaping the fruits of fake achievements or those achieved by others in order to stay in power.