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Tunisian Ministers Accused of 'Normalization' with Israel

Tunisia's parliament questions two ministers accused of promoting "normalization" with the non-recognized Israel.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 5/9/2014, 10:50 PM

Tunisian leaders (file)
Tunisian leaders (file)
Reuters

Tunisia's Islamist-dominated parliament on Friday questioned two ministers accused of promoting "normalization" with Israel, after Israeli tourists were controversially allowed into the North African country, which does not recognize the Jewish state, AFP reports.

A motion of censure was filed late last month against Tourism Minister Amel Karboul and Deputy Interior Minister for Security Ridha Sfar, with documents purporting to show that the latter give written authorization for the tourists to enter Tunisia earlier this year.

Karboul is accused of receiving an Israeli delegation. The vote was to take place later on Friday, with a three-fifths majority needed to get the ministers dismissed, according to AFP.

The heated debate over Israeli tourists comes just weeks after Israeli tourists aboard an American cruise ship were denied entry because of their nationality. 

In response, Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced that its ships would not return to Tunisia in a potentially severe blow to a struggling economy three years after the ouster of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

At the time, Karboul said that "as in all the countries in the world, for certain nationalities, there are obligatory visas or passes."

She claimed Israelis are usually required to apply for a pass to enter Tunisia because of the absence of diplomatic ties. "The procedures were not followed in the necessary timeframe," she said.

In January, Karboul faced criticism from parliamentarians over a trip to Israel she took in 2006 to take part in a UN training program for Palestinian Arab youths.

Karboul subsequently resigned from her post but Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa refused to accept her resignation.

The debate, which is focused on Israelis only, comes just a week ahead of an annual pilgrimage that draws Jews from around the world to Tunisia's ancient Ghriba synagogue.

While Israel is not recognized by Tunisia, the country still has a small Jewish population of about 1,500, with most Jews having left following the 1967 Six Day War.

More than half are on the southern resort island of Djerba, where the Ghriba synagogue, the focus of the three-day pilgrimage that begins next Friday, is located.

Djerba was once called the Island of Cohanim because so many Jewish families who could trace their lineage to Moses' brother Aaron, the first High Priest, lived there.

Tunisia’s President, Moncef Marzouki, was recently a guest at a Jewish exhibition related to the holiday of Purim.

At the exhibition, the Tunisian president expressed his support for the Jewish community in Tunisia and said that Tunisia is a “land of coexistence.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)