Jewish businessman to serve as Tunisia's tourism minister

Tunisian Prime Minister shuffles cabinet, names Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as country's new tourism minister.

Ben Ariel,

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed
Reuters

A Jewish businessman was named Tunisia’s minister of tourism on Monday as Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed reshuffled his cabinet, Reuters reported.

Chahed hopes to inject fresh blood into his government which has been widely criticized for failing to fix an economic crisis.

Rene Trabelsi, in becoming minister of tourism in the Muslim Arab country, became only the third member of the small minority of 2,000 Jews to enter a cabinet since Tunisia's independence in 1956, noted Reuters.

Key portfolios such as finance, foreign and the interior ministries were kept unchanged.

Since the toppling of former ruler Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s economy has been in crisis and nine cabinets have failed to resolve economic problems, including high inflation and unemployment.

Tunisia’s government has been showcasing its Jewish heritage sites, including Djerba, whose ancient synagogue was on Tunis’ list last year for locales put forth for recognition as world heritage sites by the United Nations.

In September, the Tunisian city of Sousse decided to name four streets for local prominent Jews.

The municipality recognized Claude Sitbon, a lawyer; Daniel Uzan, a physician; Yvonne Bessis, a midwife; and the Ghouila-Houri and Ichoua families of city developers.

While local Jews have been honored, the country does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

In 1996, Tunisia and Israel opened interest sections in each other's country, but Tunis froze relations in 2000 in protest against Israel's response to the Second Intifada.

In 2014, Tunisia's tourism minister 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.

She, along with another minister, also faced censure later that year after being accused of promoting "normalization" with Israel. Those motions were withdrawn.

Last year, Tunisia banned the film "Wonder Woman" which stars Israeli actress Gal Gadot, because Gadot had defended Israel's counterterorism Operation Protective Edge on Facebook.

This year, a Tunisian legislator ripped up an Israeli flag during a parliament session to push his demands for a law criminalizing relations with Israel.




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