Libya flag 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani)
The death of Muammar Gadaffi is yet another sign that Libya and Israel could
establish diplomatic relations. Last summer, Bernard Henry Levi accidentally
leaked the National Transitional Council’s desire to establish ties. Then
Raphael Luzon, the leader of the exiled Libyan Jewish community (and an Israeli
citizen) was invited by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil to run for office. Most
recently, Haaretz quoted an NTC spokesperson, Ahmad Shabani, as speaking
favorably about Israel- Libyan relations.
Shabani’s decision to speak to
Haaretz was most likely a calculated move by the NTC to gauge Arab public
opinion, as that newspaper is widely read throughout the region. There was no
protest in the Arab world.
This should not come as a surprise. The
Israeli- Palestinian conflict was tenuously morphed into an Israeli-Arab
conflict by despotic leaders wishing to redirect aggression and attention that
would otherwise be aimed at them.
This is why Bashar Assad has
desperately painted the Syrian democratic uprising as an Israeli conspiracy. But
the Arab Spring has ended this charade, and the Arab people cannot believe that
their struggle for democracy is a Jewish plot. It is only natural that
revolutionary inquiry has lead to a reevaluation of dogmas regarding
While some argue that it is unlikely that Israel and Libya will
soon establish relations, these arguments are not convincing. Israel’s
establishment of diplomatic relations with Arab countries in the past, most
significantly Egypt and Jordan but also Libya’s neighbor Mauritania, was met
with little to no uproar. Simply put, when Arab leaders end their anti-Israel
demagoguery, their people become less hostile towards Israel. When freedom of
inquiry flourishes, anti-Semitism diminishes.
While public opinion has
proven to be unproblematic in the past, it’s best not to wait for the Arab
Spring to cool and for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict to again become the
region’s hot topic. This requires the immediate creation of a “fact on the
ground” while foreign relations are the least of the Libyan people’s
Now that the media will no longer focus on the hunt for Gadaffi
and the tense negotiations in the late dictator’s stronghold of Sirte, Israel
and Libya can quietly exchange ambassadors.
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Israel would likely send an
Arab-Israeli, such as Atlanta Deputy Consul Raslan Abu Rukun, to establish a
rapport with the Libyan population.
In addition, a suitable number of
Arab-Israel doctors should be sent as a goodwill gesture.
also gives Israel an opportunity to reach out to other friendly Arab states.
Qatar is a prime candidate given both its amicable relations with Israel and a
desire to become the Arab world’s diplomatic kingmaker. Sensing an opportunity,
Qatar spearheaded the campaign against Gadaffi knowing that a new regime would
be indebted to the monarchy. Israel can enhance Qatar’s diplomatic presence
while Qatar can use its influence in the Arab world to make Israel more
appealing to Libya and its people.
For better or worse, Qatar has skewed
Al Jazeera’s coverage to coincide with its foreign policy, and it has
undoubtedly played a large role in the Arab Spring. It would be little trouble
for Qatar to produce several programs faintly sympathetic to Israel and Jews,
such as an expose on Libyan Jewry or a positive piece on the Arab-Israeli
Israel, on the other hand, can agree to Qatar’s longstanding
request that it be given a primary role in Gaza’s redevelopment. That would
indicate Israel’s recognition of Qatar’s preeminence in the Arab world. A large
Qatari presence in Gaza would also serve Israel’s interests because it would
overshadow any attempt by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to draw Hamas
into his sphere of influence.
With the end of Israeli-Turkish relations,
and there’s no doubt about it – they’re over, Israel must reinvent Ben-Gurion’s
vision of an alliance on the Muslim periphery. Libya is a prime
Moreover, Libya’s undeniable desire for European closeness
instills in its government the same motivation of an earlier Turkey to seek
relations with Israel, a sometimes difficult but undeniable component of the
As changes continue to engulf the Arab world, Israel’s vacation
from the spotlight is quickly coming to close. It’s time for a diplomatic
victory, and nothing would be wiser right now than an investment in Libyan
relations.The writer is a policy analyst at The Institute for Gulf
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