Monday, May 5, 2014

Tunisia's Strange Relationship with Israel

An excerpt from my latest article for Foreign Policy on Tunisia's strange relationship with Israel:

But about 80 members of Tunisia's national assembly weren't willing to leave it at that. They drafted a letter calling on Karboul and Sfar to appear before the assembly to respond to allegations that their moves to clarify the rules on visits by Israeli citizens amount to a "normalization" of ties with Israel. Tunisia opened a "diplomatic interest section," a sort of de facto embassy, in Israel in 1996, but shut it down four years later as a gesture of support for the Palestinian intifada. Since then, the Tunisian government has maintained a public stance of hostility to Israel, which it refuses to recognize. It's worth remembering that Tunisia hosted the Palestinian Liberation Organization for a time in the 1980s. (According to one historian, however, the government in Tunis granted the PLO this privilege only reluctantly, under considerable pressure from the United States.) Away from the public eye, Tunisia and Israel had continued to talk until the Tunisian uprising.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor says that, prior to the fall of former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Israel had "good working relations" with Tunisian diplomats stationed in Ramallah, who used to handle Israeli visa requests.

"Since regime change, [Tunisian] diplomatic representatives have severed all ties with Israeli authorities," he says, although he's unwilling to offer an explanation for the sudden shift in policy. 
 To read the full article, click here.

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