Why are the Libyan Rebels seeking Israel’s support?
By Anissa Haddadi | June 2, 2011
UK International Business Times
As mediation and ceasefire initiatives such as the Road Map proposed by the African Union via South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma failed, a French writer, Bernard Henri Levy announced that he delivered a message on Thursday from Libyan rebel leaders to Israel’s Prime Minister, saying they would seek diplomatic ties with the country if they came to power.
This move, which is set to be ambivalently received in the Muslim world, also breaks the National Transitional Council from the Gaddafi regime, which does not have any diplomatic relations with Israel. Also it comes as the rebels are slowly gaining advantages over Gaddafi. In the last few days they have progressed on the battlefield while the Libyan leader’s regime is facing an increase in defections and is becoming increasingly isolated internationally, especially after last week when Russia shifted its position and called on Gadaffi to step down.
The latest high-profile defection to further demoralise the regime was that of Shukri Ghanem, the regime’s oil minister and former prime minister. He was followed by the defection of eight Libyan army officers, including five generals, who were part of a wider group of 120 military personnel that defected in recent days.
In Africa, five other countries do not formally acknowledge Israel as a state or have diplomatic relations with it. They are Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia and Sudan, while in the Middle East Iraq, Lebannon, Kuwauit, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen and the United Arab Emirate share the same position.
So why are the rebels interested in obtaining Israel’s support, and affirm they will acknowledge the existence of Israel as a state as soon as they gain power?
Well, according to Levi “The main point was that the future Libyan regime would be moderate and anti-terrorist and will be concerned with justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel,”
It seems that the move will infuriate Gaddafi, not because of the new born relationship between the rebels and Israel but rather because it assumes the transitional council will, no matter what, gain control of the state.
Interestingly, the council’s stance and newly found interest in playing a major role in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict comes just after the International Criminal Courtchief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Occampo revealed this week that following accusations of arbitrary imprisonment and ill treatment of foreign workers by the rebels fighters, he was “investigating reports of unlawful arrest, mistreatment and killing” of sub-Saharan African civilians wrongly perceived to be mercenaries.
Also, as members of the fighters on the ground were accused of having ties with Al-Qaeda, it seems that expressing support for (and gaining support from) Israel will help the council steer away from accusations of having links with terrorist movements or of harbouring Muslims fundamentalists, who are not generally noted for their love of Israel.
If the new regime (if it arrives) wishes to be taken seriously by Western countries and become a successful intermediate between Israel and Palestine, then recognition of Israel would give it some initial international brownie points by putting it firmly on the international geopolitical map in a region where the West and Israel are actively seeking new allies.
Of course another possibility is that after the surge of negative reports in the last few days the regime felt it had to take a very public stand to reassure Western liberal democracies of its dedication to democracy but also to their ideals and values.
While only time will tell us what really motivated the move, the conflict is still on-going.
Today, the Libyan government tried to play down the significance of yesterday’s defection of the country’s oil minister Shukri Ghanem,
While Libyan officials had previously insisted that Mr Ghanem was on an official trip to Tunisia, Europe and Egypt, a government spokesman was forced to dismiss Mr Ghanem’s departure was a blow to the regime.
“This is a country, a state, a government, not just one person,” Mussa Ibrahim told reporters and insisted Libya would be still represented at the meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in Vienna on June 8. “I don’t have a name yet but we’ll have somebody.”
An executive with the state-owned National Oil Corporation, Mosbah Ali Matoug, took Mr Ghanem’s place today at a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Cairo.
Meanwhile in rebel-held eastern Libya, an explosion damaged a hotel used by rebels and foreigners in Benghazi, wounding one person while 270 people, who were fleeing the country, went missing after a fishing boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy broke down just off the Tunisian coast.
According to a state run agency, 570 people were rescued and seven people injured, and passengers were mainly said to be migrants from Africa and Asia who planned to enter Italy illegally.