The exposé of personal correspondences between Hillary Clinton and a longtime friend and adviser reported by the New York Times on Monday indicated, among other things, an inchoate back channel facilitating new ties between post-Gaddafi Libya and Israel.
The emails between Clinton and Sidney Blumenthal about the inner-workings of Libya following the death of the North African country’s dogged dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, included one correspondence that suggested new Libyan leader, Mohamed Magariaf, would “seek a discrete relationship with Israel.”
Clinton, encouraged by the news, forwarded the message to her deputy Jake Sullivan — a current adviser to the Obama administration for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program — saying he “should consider passing to Israelis,” according to the Times report that was released on Monday.
Libya and Israel had no diplomatic ties under Gaddafi, and neither do any exist today. From 2011 to 2012, when these Clinton-Blumenthal intelligence-style correspondences were written there were no open relations between Libya’s de facto National Transitional Council government, either.
But in 2011, politically active French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy generated a brief scandal when he apparently outed the NTC’s plan to forge better ties with the Jewish state.
Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lévy — who was one of the most outspoken supporters of the NTC in France before it was recognized as Libya’s legitimate representative — purportedly told the Israeli leader that “the future [Libyan] regime will maintain normal relations with other democratic countries, including Israel.”
Israel never commented on such claims, and a vexed NTC flatly rejected Lévy’s statements.
Perhaps Lévy will find slight vindication in the Clinton correspondence released today.
Since the Arab uprisings across the Middle East erupted in late 2010, reports have floated of secret relations between the Jewish state and historically hostile countries.
Since Israel and Gulf states have stepped up efforts to confront a hostile and expansionist Iran, more reports of intelligence ties have surfaced.
For years, Israel has been concerned that the lawlessness in Libya was being exploited by Islamists to develop a robust arms smuggling route from Libya, through Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, and into the Gaza Strip for use by Hamas or other terrorist groups.