Jewish businessman confirmed as Tunisia's tourism minister

Tunisian parliament approves cabinet reshuffle which includes Jewish businessman Rene Trabelsi as minister of tourism.

Ben Ariel,

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed
Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed
Reuters

The Tunisian parliament on Monday approved a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, which includes a Jewish businessman as minister of tourism, Reuters reported.

The approval is widely seen in Tunisia as a victory for Chahed over his political opponents, including his party Nidaa Tounes, who demanded that he step down because of his government's failure to revive the economy.

Chahed named 10 new ministers last week in a cabinet reshuffle he hopes will inject fresh blood into his government.

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.

A former foreign minister under the former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Kamel Morjan, became minister in charge of the public service, Tunisia's main employer.

Portfolios such as finance, foreign affairs and the interior ministries were unchanged, noted Reuters.

Lawmakers voted to approve the reshuffle, giving Chahed support to push on with economic reforms asked by lenders.

"Since two years we were working under random shelling from friendly fire," Chahed said in speech in the parliament.

"We have not found political support in the reforms and in the fight against corruption, this is no longer possible as we want clarity to move forward in reviving the economy and ending the political crisis," he added.

Since the toppling of 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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