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      'Democratic' Tunisia's New Gov't Bans Ties With Israel

      One of the first acts of Tunisia's new government was to ban normalization of ties with Israel under its new constitution.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 7/3/2011, 11:57 AM / Last Update: 7/3/2011, 3:08 PM

      courtesy VOA Photo/L. Brya

      One of the first acts of Tunisia's commission of political reform was to ensure there will be no future diplomatic ties with the State of Israel despite the Obama Administration's grant last month of $20 million in new funding to support the Tunisian transition to democracy.

      The money was to be used to “help draft a new constitution, strengthen political parties and non-partisan civic groups, develop a framework for free and fair elections, create a professional and independent news media and encourage economic reforms,” according to the U.S. State Department announcement.

      The country's High Commission for Political Reforms and Democratic Transition on Friday adopted a “pact of reform” that is to provide the basis for Tunisia's new constitution.

      In making the announcement panning relations with Israel, Yadh Ben Achour, president of the commission, announced the adoption of the reform agreement without offering many details.

      The document states that Tunisia is a democratic country, its language is Arabic and its religion is Islam. But it also states that Tunisia supports the Palestinian Arab cause and rejects “any form of normalization with the Zionist State,” according to the AFP news agency.

      Although national elections were originally scheduled for July, continued unrest has prompted the transitional government to postpone the polls until October.

      Last Monday, the Islamist movement Ennahda (Renaissance) pulled out of the national commission tasked with drawing up political reforms in the country. The group, legalized in March 30 years after being banned by the government, accused the commission of ignoring the “true” goals of Tunisians.

      One day earlier, members of the Salafist Muslim movement attacked a cinema in Tunis showing a film about secularism. The Lam Echaml umbrella organization, comprised of some 80 associations, held a news conference Friday to condemn the attack in a news conference. “We will not accept violence in this extremely tolerant country,” stated Habib Belhedi, head of the targeted Afric'Art cinema.

      A conflagration was ignited in January by the self-immolation of a 26-year-old fruit vendor after police confiscated his merchandise. The groundswell of protests that followed soon toppled the 23-year reign of President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali, eventually sweeping through the entire region and destabilizing nearly every other nation along the way.

      Meanwhile, some 150 people died in Tunisia, and more than 500 were wounded in the Jasmine Revolution, according to United Nations figures. Ben Ali fled with his family to Saudi Arabia, where he reportedly later suffered a stroke. According to Press TV there are unconfirmed reports that Ben Ali is in a coma.