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So French writer Bernard Henri-Levy went to Benghazi and met with Libya’s rebel leaders, and they told him that they’ll establish normal relations with Israel if they come to power. He then relayed that message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he isn’t surprised.

I’ll believe it if and when it happens, but honestly I’d only be a little bit surprised myself if it does. Libya is as far removed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Iraq is, and anti-Israel sentiment is significantly lower there than it is in countries on Israel’s borders.

A small and elite but nevertheless significant percentage of Sunni Arabs have been moving on from that conflict for a while now. Hatred of Israel remains white hot among Palestinians and many Lebanese, and it’s still bad in Egypt despite the peace treaty between the two countries, but it ain’t what it used to be in much of the Arab periphery. And Libya counts as the Arab periphery.

Tunisia, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have had on-again off-again subnormal relations with Israel for years. None of these countries ever participated in the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor are they likely to—ever. It’s not terribly hard to imagine a new regime in Libya that’s neither Islamist nor ideologically Arab Nationalist doing something similar.

Of course it’s also possible that Libya’s rebels were jerking Henri-Levy’s chain, and by extension Netanyahu’s. That sort of thing happens a lot. So we’ll see.



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