Tunisia Weighs Banning Normalization of Relations With Israel in Wake of Gaza War

Tunisia Weighs Banning Normalization of Relations With Israel in Wake of Gaza War

On Tuesday, the Tunisian legislature began discussion of a bill aimed at banning the normalization of relations with Israel, as several other Arab states have done in the last year. Neighboring Algeria has also considered banning advocacy of normalization in the media.

The Committee on Rights, Freedoms and Foreign Relations in Tunisia’s Assembly of the Representatives of the People was due to take up the issue on Tuesday after a majority of the legislature’s political factions came together to demand the illegalization of extending diplomatic recognition to the state of Israel amid the 11-day war in Gaza, according to The New Arab.

Tunis has played an interesting role in the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, having once hosted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and also having limited relations with Israel in the 1990s, before cancelling them after the Second Palestinian Intifada broke out in 2000. It also has one of the larger Jewish communities in the Arab world, with about 1,500 still inhabiting the island of Djerba, where one of Judaism’s rare pilgrimage shrines is located.

Its strong sympathy with the Palestnian struggle was evident in the demonstrations last month as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bombarded Gaza with airstrikes and artillery, destroying buildings and killing more than 250 people. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel, most of which were intercepted by air defense systems, but ultimately still killed 12 people in Israel.

According to Africa News, thousands of Tunisians marched down Mohammed V Avenue in Tunis on May 19 demanding the criminalization of relations with Israel.

In 2020, the United States helped broker a series of deals with Arab nations that resulted in them extending diplomatic recognition to Israel and normalizing diplomatic and trade relations. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco also penned deals before the year was out, and in return, Israel pledged to hold off on plans to annex part of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

When Morocco agreed to formalize their long-informal relations with Israel in December in exchange for the US recognizing Rabat’s claims to rule the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, it sent shockwaves through the Maghreb. Algerian lawmakers pitched a bill that would have banned advocating normalization with Israel, and Algerian and Tunisian leaders denounced the move.

“For Tunisia, the question is not on the agenda,” Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi told France24 at the time.

“As Tunisia respects the sovereign positions of other countries, it affirms that its stance is principled, and changes in the international scene will never affect it,” the Tunisian Foreign Ministry also said.

Normalization of relations with Israel goes against the so-called “Three No’s” of the 1967 Khartoum Declaration. When Arab leaders met in the Sudanese capital in the aftermath of Israel’s astounding victory in the Six-Day War in which it seized Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula from surrounding Arab nations, they agreed on three principles to govern their joint orientation towards Israel: no peace, no recognition, and no negotiations. 

However, in practice this agreement began to crumble almost immediately. As Sputnik has reported, Morocco had already secretly passed to Israel information about a planned Arab attack prior to the Six-Day War, and 11 years later in 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Jordan followed in 1994, and several other Muslim nations also established some degree of relations with Israel in the 1990s and 2000s, including Chad, Mauritania, and Morocco, with many of them later cancelling in response to an attack by Israel against Palestinian forces.


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