For the first time, a delegation of Israeli lawmakers is visiting Libya, after arriving from Jordan on Saturday on Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s personal jet.

Almost four dozen Israeli Arab officials, including six MKs, are expected to meet with Gaddafi in Tripoli on Sunday, where they will discuss the position of Israeli Arabs as part of the Arab world.

The 40-strong delegation includes current and former lawmakers, local politicians, religious leaders and journalists.

MKs Ahmed Tibi (Ta’al) Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), Jamal Zahalka (Balad), Afo Agbaria (Hadash), Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL) and Haneen Zoabi (Balad) are all participating in the visit. Muhammad Zeidan, the head of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, the umbrella organization representing the Israeli Arab community, and Sheikh Karmel Rian, chairman of the Al-Aksa Fund, are also participating.

Tibi said the delegation would help open the doors of the entire Arab world to Israel’s Arab minority and seek to emphasize that Arab Israelis are part of the Arab community.

While Gaddafi was ready to welcome the delegation to his country, he only did so on condition that the delegation, whose members are passport-holding Israelis, enter Libya without getting their passports stamped or receiving Libyan visas.


Before their departure, Zahalka said the Arab League had “ignored” Israeli Arabs for decades, and that Gaddafi had reached out to them.

Tibi, Barakei and Sanaa spent months in dialogue with the Libyan ambassador to Jordan to arrange such a meeting, as part of their attempts to reach out to the Arab world.

The visit was first publicized two weeks ago, when the Israeli-Arab Web site Al-Arabiya announced that Gaddafi had invited the Israeli-Arab leaders to Tripoli. It was the Libyan ambassador to Jordan, Muhammad Hassan al-Barghouti, who passed the invitation along to the Israelis. They met with Barghouti over the weekend in Amman before boarding Gaddafi’s airplane.

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