ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Undermining the Libyan Peace Initiative 12.1.04

Undermining the Libyan Peace Initiative

12 January 2004

By Yisrael Ne'eman

Two weeks ago the Israeli press revealed that secret contacts were taking place between Libya and the Sharon government in an effort to establish diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and the Benghazi regime. Libya was known for its extremely radical anti-Israel and anti-American policies for over 30 years. Now there was a chance for a breakthrough, provided the discussions were kept secret. Muammar Ghaddafi was known for his support of terrorism (including the downing of the Pan American “Lockerbie” flight over Scotland), his support of Islamic fundamentalist groups and his opposition to the moderate Arab regimes, especially Egypt. He had particularly detested Anwar Sadat and the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

Although having begun to shift to the West in the past few years, such moves were accelerated when the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi dictatorship and Ghaddafi sought to end his diplomatic isolation from both the West and in the Arab world. What better way to realign, than to use the Israel card. Finally a stroke of good luck hit the Jewish State and a possible peace accord with Libya was at hand.

Not wanting to accept good fortune at face value, someone decided to leak the story to the press, apparently in an effort to scuttle the Libyan diplomatic initiative. Ghaddafi was humiliated (as he faces and Islamic opposition in his own back yard), the Libyans were justifiably outraged and all talks came to a halt. Israelis are asking themselves as to the motive for leaking such sensitive information. Either the extreme Right wants to scuttle any Arab overtures towards conflict resolution or someone involved in Israel’s foreign policy is looking for self-aggrandizement.

One should recall that Libya has no common border with Israel and therefore no issue of territories could come to the fore, meaning there is absolutely no reason to obstruct such a budding relationship. There is no security reason to demand publicity for the talks which could only be helpful to Israel’s foreign policy.

Someone should pay the price for undermining such a government approved initiative which could only be in the national interest. There are those who demand the press be curtailed. That is a non-starter, since there are issues of freedom of the press. So we are left with the “leakers” themselves, and they should be fired from their posts. Secondly, such sensitive initiatives must be protected by law, and passing on such information to the press should be punishable by fines and jail time. In essence it must be deemed a security breach.

One might ask, “What about initiatives with the Syrians and Palestinians?” since there are direct border and security issues. Here too, the same rules should apply, as any agreement would be made public and have to pass a government and Knesset vote.

Israel’s foreign and defense policy cannot be held hostage to any person deciding to undermine legitimate government initiatives for their own individual purposes.