Jerusalem: Israeli lawmakers have slammed Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and called for his resignation after he made public his meeting with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry revealed in a statement on Sunday that the two ministers, whose countries don’t have official ties, met in Rome last week, reports Xinhua news agency.
The North African country does not recognise Israel nor does it have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.
Under a 1957 Libyan law, dealing with Israel is punishable by up to nine years in prison.
Cohen said the meeting was “the first step” toward building future ties with Libya and their discussions encompassed preserving the heritage of the Jewish community in the North African nation and renovating synagogues there.
Shortly after the revelation, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah announced the suspension of al-Mangoush.
The Libyan foreign minister fled to Turkey out of fear for her safety after the meeting triggered an uproar in Libya.
Meanwhile on Monday, Israeli Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli called on Cohen to resign, accusing him of causing “unprecedented” damage.
In a statement, she said that “a hasty publication has ruined the life of the Libyan minister who has had to flee to Turkey and has caused international damage to Israel”.
Opposition leader and former Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized Cohen as “amateurish”.
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Lapid wrote that the publication of the meeting was “irresponsible” and “putting in danger” al-Mangoush’s life.
“Countries of the world this morning are looking at the irresponsible leak of the meeting of the Israeli and Libyan foreign minister and asking themselves: Is it possible to manage foreign relations with this country? Is it possible to trust this country?” he said in a statement.
Benny Gantz, a prominent opposition leader and former Defence Minister, said that Israel’s foreign relations “are a sensitive and serious matter, certainly when it comes to ties with Arab countries and certainly those with which we do not have official relations”.
He accused Cohen of acting for the sake of “PR (public relations) and headlines, with zero responsibility”.
Also slamming the Foreign Minister’s move, Israel’s Channel 12 commented that Cohen’s announcement had seriously damaged the Jewish state’s credibility.
Israel has normalised relations with some Arab countries in recent years as part of US-backed deals known as the Abraham Accords.