TUNIS: The head of Tunisia’s governing Islamist party has said the country cannot normalize ties with Israel, the official TAP news agency reported Sunday.
Rached Ghannouchi said that “Tunisians’ problem is with Zionism, not with Judaism”, but TAP said “the president of Ennahda stressed … there can be no normalization with Israel.”
The party won the most seats in an October 23 election,
TAP said Ghannouchi told a ceremony Saturday in the northwestern town of Beja that the only way for Palestinians to reclaim their land now occupied by Israel is through “the victory of democratic regimes in the Arab World.”
He added that Tunisia’s toppled leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was “a collaborator with the Zionists.”
Ben Ali, who clung to power through strong-arm tactics and widely discredited elections “betrayed the Palestinian cause,” TAP quoted Ghannouchi as saying.
A few hundred people held a rally outside the national assembly building in Tunis on Friday to protest any normalization of ties with Israel.
After several years of warming ties, the Israeli and Tunisian authorities opened interest sections in each other’s countries in 1996 but Tunis broke off all relations in 2000 after the outbreak of the second intifada.
The country had hosted the headquarters of Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization from 1982 to 1994.
Ghannouchi greeted Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh upon his arrival in Tunis in January.
The trip was Haniyeh’s first travel abroad since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007.
Haniyeh’s visit reportedly angered Palestinian representatives in Tunis who are loyal to Hamas’s rival Fatah. The Fatah officials accused Ennahda of organizing the sensitive diplomatic visit without proper consultation.