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Israel writer claims trade with Tunisia is growing

August 31, 2022 at 1:47 pm

A view of container lying at the port of Sousse, Tunisia [FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images]

The trade volume between Israel and Tunisia has steadily increased in recent years reaching about $29 million, despite the north African country maintaining a firm official position against normalising relations with Tel Aviv, an Israeli writer said.

Dr Yaron Friedman of the Times of Israel’s Hebrew site claimed: “Tunisia mainly imports technology and medical products from Israel.”

Tunisia has repeatedly denied claims that it has economic ties with Israel, with previous reports that it exports one thousand tonnes of couscous to the occupation state each year. Friedman, however, says: “Perhaps the very denials indicate that ‘there is no smoke without fire’.”

According to the Israeli writer, Tunisia is a country full of huge contradictions, with Western French influence alongside Islam and Arabism, and secularism next to conservativeness and where women enjoy more rights than the rest of the Arab world, but the number of Tunisian female Daesh members is among the largest in the Middle East.

“There is no doubt that Tunisia’s difficult economic situation is a main source of motivation for renewing ties with Israel,” Friedman added. But President Kais Saied is worried that this would “not only contradict all his previous statements regarding the ‘crimes of the Zionist entity’, but will also harm his popularity.”

READ: Tunisia denies commercial exchanges with Israel

Relations between Israel and Tunisia have witnessed ups and downs during the era of President Habib Bourguiba, including the economic support it obtained through secret channels since 1956.

However, in the late 1950s and 1967, waves of persecution against Tunisian Jews led most of the Jewish community to leave, leaving only 1500 Jews in Tunisia, most of them on the island of Djerba.

According to Friedman, Tunisia and Israel relations have deteriorated in the 1980s when Tunisia hosted the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Israel bombed the PLO offices in 1985.

Tunis and Tel Aviv restored public diplomatic relations after the Oslo agreement and peace with Jordan, and in 1996 Israel opened an interest office in Tunisia, however, the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada led to a new estrangement in the late 2000s, despite Tunisia allowing Jews who hold foreign passports to continue to come every year to the island of Djerba.