Israel’s Involvement in Libya’s Civil War

For several reasons, Israel has joined various Arab powers to back a strongman in Libya, explains Giorgio Cafiero.

By Giorgio Cafiero
Special to Consortium News

Since mid-2014, Libya has been mired in civil war, pitting the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli against a rival administration in Tobruk, the House of Representatives (HoR), which is allied with General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). Despite lacking UN legitimacy, Haftar and his forces have received backing from a host of powerful states whose leaders view the Benghazi-based commander as Libya’s only alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist actors in the war-torn North African country. Among these nations is Israel.

Tel Aviv, along with Cairo, Paris, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi support Haftar, whose opponents suspect him of wanting to become a “new Gaddafi” who seeks to establish an Egyptian-style military dictatorship in Libya.

Israeli backing of the Benghazi-based commander illustrates the regional geopolitical dynamics which have led Sunni Arab states—specifically Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE—to find themselves in the same boat with Israel, sharing the same perceptions of security threats.

Coordination between Haftar and the Israelis, which has been conducted through the UAE, began in 2015, if not sooner. Initially, Israel’s interests in post-Qaddafi Libya were from the perspective of its interests in the Sinai Peninsular. Links between various jihadist forces in Libya and the Sinai have been well-documented.

Israel feels they Hafta help him. (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2015 and 2016, Haftar met Mossad agents in Jordan in “strict secrecy”. One military source told The New Arab that Israel began providing the LNA with sniper rifles and night vision equipment at that time. This source suggested that the Israeli military began carrying out air raids in Libya in coordination with the LNA after Haftar launched Operation Dignity in 2014. By mid-2017, Algerian media outlets reported that officials in Algiers warned Haftar against receiving Israeli military support.

Last year, al-Araby al-Jadeed explained that Haftar held another meeting in Amman “to deepen security coordination between him and Israel” and that Haftar sought a stronger Israeli presence in southern Libya to thwart Italy from asserting significant influence throughout the Fezzan, the southwest region of Libya. Middle East Monitor quoted an unnamed source claiming that Haftar promised Israel “safe centers” in Libya’s desert, and that the commander’s connection with Israel is Oren Hazan, a member of Israel’s Likud party who has Libyan roots.

MEMO‘s source also said that while the Egyptian government backs Haftar’s tacit and covert partnership with Israel, authorities in Cairo have not wanted Haftar’s communication with Tel Aviv to be become direct.

In May, Al Jazeera Arabic published an investigation which uncovered Israeli support for Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli, which the LNA launched on April 4. A joint Emirati-Kazakh firm, Reem Travel, had an aircraft registered to its name which was flying between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan prior to arriving in LNA-controlled territory in Libya shortly before Haftar’s westward assault began, according to al Jazeera.

Why Did Israel Take Sides in Libya?

Israel’s intervention in the Libyan civil war on the side of Haftar is understandable from its point of view, given a host of factors. First, when it comes to coordinating with actors in the Middle East and North Africa, Israel’s clear preference is for strongmen regardless of ideology. Like Hosni Mubarak and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, or King Abdullah II in Jordan, Haftar is perhaps the type of Arab leader whom the Israelis can engage with on intelligence sharing.

Second, Israeli support for Haftar brings Israel into greater de facto alignment with the Sunni Arab states that have been backing the eastern commander for years, namely Egypt and the UAE, and more recently Saudi Arabia too. Thus, by supporting Haftar, Tel Aviv can further cement its role in this emerging bloc of regional Sunni states, which share Israel’s perception of a threat from both Iran and Iranian-backed militias, as well as certain Sunni Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. As one Israeli Defense Forces source told Middle East Eye, “A friend of our friend – and an enemy of our enemy – is our friend, and Haftar is a friend of Egypt, Jordan, and UAE. He also fights ISIS.”

Qaddafi at 12th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 2, 2009. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released)

Third, the opportunities to secure money through lucrative weapons sales also help explain Israel’s interest in backing Haftar. As a leading arms dealer, Israel has made billions by selling arms and leasing Israeli military advisers to different conflict-plagued countries in Africa, such as South Sudan. Israel is expanding its clout in Africa, where it is seeking to deepen its role and strengthen its relations with a host of countries. Israel’s Africa foreign policy reached a watershed in January when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Chad to meet President Idriss Deby and renew bilateral relations. Tel Aviv’s closer relationship with Haftar can further advance Israel’s grander geopolitical interests in the region.

Fourth, Libya’s natural resources are a factor too. Constantly looking for oil-rich allies to sell it oil, Israel may expect to secure access to Libya’s petroleum after backing Haftar in the country’s ongoing civil war. As the eastern commander’s forces have demonstrated, their capacity to take control of virtually all onshore oil fields in Libya means Israel likely sees a tacit alliance with Haftar as a prudent move in regard to its energy needs.

France Also Backs Haftar 

France’s support for Haftar, which has been based on Paris’ view of the LNA as a bulwark against Islamist extremism, has created a major division within Europe with respect to Libya. This division has had a remarkably negative impact on French-Italian relations. Unquestionably, Paris and Rome’s different ideas about Libya have been another factor contributing to the North African country’s crisis, while France and Italy compete for influence in this part of the Maghreb. (The U.S. officially supports the GNA, yet Trump has praised Haftar, so the U.S. position is unclear on Libya).

Turkey and its own interests are in play too. Tension is heating up between the LNA and its external supporters on the one side, and the GNA-allied militias with Turkey on the other. To counter the LNA’s advance on Tripoli, the Turks have provided GNA-aligned factions with armored vehicles and drones, including one shot down by Haftar’s forces late last month. By siding with Haftar, Israel has firmly positioned itself with Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and other capitals, which view Haftar as the strongest leader in Libya capable of taking on “terrorists,” while returning stability to the country.

With the further regionalization of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis, which has been a driver of greater instability in Libya and other countries in Africa, Israel’s position is unambiguous in the Abu Dhabi-Doha clash. By supporting the Emirati and Egyptian positions on Libya—firmly placing Israel at odds with both Ankara and Doha—Tel Aviv is making clear it prefers Arab figures representing the model of Western-backed authoritarian stability and secular dictatorships, rather than those who advance the Muslim Brotherhood’s vision for the region.

For the Libyan people, a dismal future is most likely. The proxy war has been fueled by many external actors, which have come into the country seeking to fill the power vacuum that emerged after Moammar Qaddafi’s fall in 2011. With GNA-allied fighters recently pushing back against the LNA offensive, it is unclear how the civil war will evolve as Haftar’s forces continue to shell Tripoli.

The growing danger for Libya, torn apart by various militias fighting with the support of Israel and the other external actors, is long-term fragmentation.

Giorgio Cafiero (@GiorgioCafiero) is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics (@GulfStateAnalyt), a Washington-based geopolitical risk consultancy.

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27 comments for “Israel’s Involvement in Libya’s Civil War

  1. eric siverson
    July 23, 2019 at 23:21

    I don’t back Haftar . I consider him to be a U.S. pupet . As he lived and was trained by the US . My choice would b Gaddafi’s son I think he might have the most political support from most of the people . I think Gaddafi was good in that he passed on to the people most of the countries wealth . So many of the world’s dictators take all the wealth for themselves and leave the people with nothing .

  2. MrK
    July 17, 2019 at 07:18

    “By siding with Haftar, Israel has firmly positioned itself with Abu Dhabi, Cairo, and other capitals, which view Haftar as the strongest leader in Libya capable of taking on “terrorists,” while returning stability to the country.”

    Israel, the US and more installed terrorists in Libya. It was Ghadaffi who was holding back the jihadis.

    More here:

    John McCain: Founding Father of the Terrorist Emirate of Benghazi
    Benghazi declares autonomy, raises Al-Qaeda flag. McCain seeks to spread terrorist empire to Syria.
    by Tony Carlucci

    • Tekyo Pantzov
      July 17, 2019 at 15:50

      Gaddafi was a terrorist too. He was behind the La Belle bombing in Berlin and the City of Poros terror attack, both in the 1980s, and he financed Islamic terrorists in the Philippines.

  3. boxerwar
    July 16, 2019 at 18:53

    SHAME ON YOU CONSORTIUM
    NEWS FOR PUBLISHING
    THIS BULL – KRAP BUCOLIC
    MISINFORMATION SCKEWED
    TRUMP FAVORING ‘PASS-
    OVER’ OF HIS BLATANT
    IMPERALISTIC TENDANCIES.

    “”””””””””””””””””””
    “The Thief Comes Not But To Steal, Kill, and Destroy”
    The Book of John Chapter 8. …

  4. boxerwar
    July 16, 2019 at 18:01

    Israel’s involvement as relates to:

    AIPAC

    the “Judea”/”Christian” Aspect?

    (history teachings R verified in deep historical records authenticated by professional archeologists)

    https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1357-jewish-talmud-and-the-death-of-christ-the

  5. Steve Brown
    July 16, 2019 at 10:56

    It’s odd that this article — while not particularly damning in it’s allegations — was down while other articles were working. Granted, the website still seems slow. Zionist Conspiracy? lol.

  6. Tiu
    July 15, 2019 at 21:18

    There’s also a very good series of articles on the middle-east conflicts on Thierry Meysans’ Voltaire.net at the moment which goes into a lot of detail about the various connections between the multiple players, including Israel. It’s up to article 4 at present, I’m going to try to read all 25 as they are released.
    https://www.voltairenet.org/article206933.html

  7. John Kirsch
    July 15, 2019 at 18:37

    This isn’t a comment on the story. I am trying to let Consortiumnews know that I am having trouble calling up the site and using the contact form. I keep getting messages about a problem with a server.

  8. SF4
    July 14, 2019 at 22:32

    The comment moderator has rejected the following comment many times, claiming server errors etc.:

    To describe Ghaddafi as simply a military dictator, rather than a socialist dealing with Islamic militants, and to suggest that an assortment of military dictators might be better, is unclear argument. The US opposition to Ghaddafi appears to be have been nothing but propaganda with corrupt economic motives. Exactly what did Hillary see in “We came, we saw, he died”?

    The article should be more clear on the extent of US support for the “UN approved” government, and for Haftar who long resided near Langley, and what that was to achieve, other than chaos and genocide and bribes to US politicians.

    • Tekyo Pantzov
      July 17, 2019 at 16:01

      Why should’t NATO have killed Gaddafi? He was an amoral killer and a terrorist boss. The only argument I can see not to have liquidated Gaddafi was that Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood hated him. As a matter of fact it was clearly Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood plotter-in-chief, that took the initiative in getting rid of Gaddafi, using NATO to do their dirty work. As the recently published Qatar Papers show, president Sarkozy of France was in Qatar’s pocket, since Qatar had bribed him. Sarkozy got a top education official fired for opposing a Muslim Brotherood school near Lyon. Sarkozy was the one who got Nato to attack Gaddafi, despite strong resistance from Germany. So the chances are that the whole Libya caper was a Qatari plan, and Nato was just a patsy.

  9. Sam F
    July 14, 2019 at 22:27

    The Akismet comment “moderator” has rejected the following comment many times, claiming server errors etc.:

    To describe Ghaddafi as simply a military dictator, rather than a socialist dealing with Islamic militants, and to suggest that an assortment of military dictators might be better, is unclear argument. The US opposition to Ghaddafi appears to be have been nothing but propaganda with corrupt economic motives. Exactly what did Hillary see in “We came, we saw, he died”?

    The article should be more clear on the extent of US support for the “UN approved” government, and for Haftar who long resided near Langley, and what that was to achieve, other than chaos and genocide and bribes to US politicians.

    What is the influence of Italy “throughout the … southwest region of Libya.”

  10. Sam F2
    July 14, 2019 at 22:21

    To describe Ghaddafi as simply a military dictator, rather than a socialist dealing with Islamic militants, and to suggest that an assortment of military dictators might be better, is unclear argument. The US opposition to Ghaddafi appears to be have been nothing but propaganda with corrupt economic motives. Exactly what did Hillary see in “We came, we saw, he died”?

    The article should be more clear on the extent of US support for the “UN approved” government, and for Haftar who long resided near Langley, and what that was to achieve, other than chaos and genocide and bribes to US politicians.

    What is the influence of Italy “throughout the … southwest region of Libya.”

  11. Sam F2
    July 14, 2019 at 22:14

    The Akismet comment moderating program appears to be largely failing today, refusing to post moderate comments.
    I notice that others are trying test comments etc.

  12. Mark Thomason
    July 14, 2019 at 15:37

    Libya was three entirely separate places, east, west, and south, when Italy took it from Turkey in its 1911 war. Italy then declared it one colony.

    However, Italy’s efforts in its colony were swamped first by WW1, and then by Mussolini’s incompetence. They never made it anything politically. Then it was independent, taken from Italy by the end of Mussolini’s fiasco.

    King Idris as post-Mussolini was a figurehead of no influence on the three regions. Gaddafi replaced him, and balanced the three regions against each other rather than making them one nation.

    So when NATO destroyed Gaddafi, Libya was left in the three parts it had always been. The are currently trying to conquer one another, and NATO/UN seems to prefer one contender, but it is all prospective. There has never been one real country. There is no real prospect that any one of these contenders would remake it as one country, and the other two fear any one of them.

    • Rob Roy
      July 15, 2019 at 15:40

      Mark Thomason, and yet, as a whole, Libya was the most socially and economically stable country in Africa, until Hillary took power (there’s never been a good sec. of state in my lifetime). As is its practice, the USA destroyed that. Every time the US attacks a sovereign country, and it’s always first strike thus illegal, it leaves it in chaos and ruins. Iran is next. Hillary planned to do the same to Russia she did to the Ukraine and Honduras, choose the next president after getting rid of Putin.

  13. July 14, 2019 at 10:54

    It very informative article thank’s
    America Invest billions of dollars in Afghanistan for fighting a war against the Afghan Taliban but the U.S failed to get a positive response. Afghan Taliban become much stronger as compared to past that’s why the US is afraid that the Afghan Taliban will be an annihilate them. The world has a fear that Afghan Taliban becomes a supper army in upcoming days. So President Trump said,” America is decided to leave Afghanistan and sort out the matter with dialogue”

    Are the Afghan Taliban are future power after US army collapse

    • t
      July 15, 2019 at 06:20

      test

  14. AnneR
    July 14, 2019 at 09:05

    After Gaddafi hardly, simply “fell” either. There is *no* mention at all in this article about *why* Libya is in the dreadful chaotic mess that it now is, and that background is an essential part and parcel of what is now going on. Nor is there any mention of Israel’s very likely consideration, not only for access to oil but also surely additional Arab, North African support for its intended “final solution” to the “Palestinian Problem.” And if those terms appear to be anti-semitic – well Palestinians are semites, that is the true historical, continuous users of a semitic language, the basis of the 19th C conjured term.

    • Gregory Herr
      July 14, 2019 at 18:11

      The background of actions and motives are as pertinent as it gets. Actions include the use of terrorist mercenaries and the bombing and destruction of Libya’s ability to reproduce a seminal achievement of Gaddafi—the world’s largest irrigation project. We know of the gold looting and gun running—and we know of the fairly successful example of socialism that had to be “suppressed”.

      And everything else you mentioned Anne, and so much more.

    • Consortiumnews.com
      July 15, 2019 at 16:41

      Consortiumnews.com Consortium News main site has been hit with malicious interference. Technicians working on restoring. We’ll be back in normal operations. Watch the Premiere, CN Live! on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u88NqWUuWGc&feature=youtu.be

    • KiwiAntz
      July 16, 2019 at 01:35

      Yeah, thought that was the case as the dreaded 404 page came up? Thanks Consortium News for fixing this heinous attack.

    • steve brown
      July 16, 2019 at 10:44

      Not “anti-Semitic”… pro-Palestinian..!

    • T
      July 19, 2019 at 15:34

      AnneR

      > semites, that is the true historical, continuous users of a semitic language, the basis of the 19th C conjured term.

      You are misinformed: “antisemitism” is a term invented by a 19th-century German “antisemite”, at a time when Jew-hating with a religious argumentation had become out-of-date, so a modern racialist version was needed.

  15. Marko
    July 13, 2019 at 21:29

    So a guy that was groomed for upwards of two decades in Langley , Va. is now a favorite of Israel , huh ?

    Surprise , surprise.

    Not. Haftar is the Juan Guaido of Libya , only much better armed.

  16. a.z
    July 13, 2019 at 20:12

    hafter employs former isis fighters for crying out loud

  17. KiwiAntz
    July 13, 2019 at 19:54

    Has there ever been a more duplicitous, devious & meddling Nation than the Modern day State of Israel? Since it’s illegal creation & repatriation of European Jews to Palestine in 1948, this Country is the main reason why the Middle East is constantly at War & in chaos? Its meddling in other Middle East Countries is well known but it’s absolute control of America & it’s Political system defies belief? Israel massive, undeserving, fawning obeisance from the US & receives billions of dollars in American Foreign aid, Weapons & support supposedly from a US Nation that detests Socialism handouts, which is what this aid is? And what does America get back in return? Mossad Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, one of many Jewish Spies & Jewish Businessman interfering & controlling America’s Political system & Financial & Military Organizations! So much for Putin controlling Trump & America its more like Bibi Netanyahu doing this, right under America’s nose’s & in full knowledge of the US? But no, we are told its Russia, Russia, Russia & Russiagate but the real scandal is Jewgate or Israelgate as the true meddlers? The also, scandalous meddling in Libya, Yemen, Syria & Iran by this pathetic little apartheid Nation called Israel & its attempts to sucker Trump & the US into another Middle Eastern conflict is so dangerous that it could lead to WW3? And with all the nonsense generated over Iran’s attempts to get a nuke, Israel has secretly amassed hundreds if nukes, under the radar with no International scrutiny & as the article highlights from stealing that knowledge from the Americans? With friends line Israel who needs enemies & one day this devious behaviour is going to boomerang back & smack America, right in the face!

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