Friday, April 25, 2014

  • Friday, April 25, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
From JTA:
Tunisia’s tourism minister has been summoned to appear before the country’s parliament to explain her decision to allow Israelis to enter the country on their passports for a religious festival.

Tunisia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel; the lawmakers say that allowing the religious pilgrims to use their Israeli passports is tantamount to recognizing Israel.

It is the first time that Israelis traveling to Tunisia for the traditional festive procession on Lag B’Omer near the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba will be allowed to enter the country on their passports, rather than use a special visa issued by the Tunisian embassy, the Associated Press reported .

Eighty-five lawmakers in the 217-member parliament signed a petition requiring Tourism Minister Amel Karboul to appear and defend her actions.

Tunisia’s interim Prime Minister, Mehdi Jomaa, on Tuesday defended the decision, which is seen as a way to boost tourism to the country.

“We must dispense with these political arguments and focus on the essential,” Jomaa said, according to AP. “All the previous government authorized Jews from Israel to come to Tunisia for the annual pilgrimage; we just decided to do it in total transparence.”
The details from Arabic website El Badil are interesting:
"The success of the tourist season is essential Because tourism is an activity that generates revenue quickly," [Jomaa] said of the Constituent Assembly a few days ago...

Tunisia is facing a serious economic crisis since 2011, and Israeli tourism - especially the pilgrimage to the Jewish Temple in Djerba - is essential for the development of this [tourist] sector, which is facing difficulties.

Some of the MPs objected to this reminding all that Tunisia is still officially "in a state of war " with Israel.

The Web site of the Secretary General of the Democratic Alliance, Mohammed Hamdi, said, "The Pilgrimage to the Temple of Djerba is not a problem in itself, but there is a political problem, Tunisia as a member of the Arab League must respect its obligations."

He added, "We must not forget that our country has ratified the decisions of the Arab League, and, therefore, Tunisia is still in a state of war with Israel, and should not turn this pilgrimage to a pretext for the normalization of relations with the Zionist entity."

The Prime Minister, in response to these accusations, said, "Let us be frank. Normalization, not normalization, set aside these big issues," calling on lawmakers to leave the "history" aside, stressing that these are procedures followed for years by all governments.
According to Elaph, only 61 Israeli tourists are expected to go to Tunisia, so the direct economic benefit to Tunisia cannot be that great. However, if Tunisia can point to them as proof that it is a safe place even for  tourists from enemy countries to visit, it can be a big win.

This also shows the importance of the economy in bringing peace (or at least detente.) Here we have Tunisia's acting prime minister essentially thumbing his nose at the entire Arab world saying that their economy is more important than any number of anti-Israel slogans. No doubt this is why there is a small but growing underground trade between Israel and many Arab states.

But, as he stressed, he didn't want to make a big deal out of this because the haters are very, very loud.

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