Tunisia will never recognize Israel, the leader of the country’s ruling Islamic Nahda party said Friday, adding that Israel and other Western countries should be dealt with differently by Tunisia.

Rashed Ghannoushi (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Ennahda Flickr)

Rashed Ghannoushi (photo credit: CC-BY-SA Ennahda Flickr)

“We will never recognize the occupation or the [Zionist] entity,” Rashed Ghannoushi told the Lebanese daily A-Safir. “There is no need for surprise, Palestine is in consensus among all Islamists and nationalists.”

Tunisia, formerly the most secular of Arab countries, has maintained low-grade diplomatic relations with Israel. The two countries even exchanged mutual interest offices in the 1990s. Nahda swept the parliamentary elections held in Tunisia last October, winning 40 percent of the votes and changing the country’s foreign policy.

Ghannoushi told A-Safir that the issue of Israel comes up often in conversations with Europeans.

“We would tell them that we do not want to link the two issues [Europe and Israel], otherwise we will put the issue of Cuba on the table.”

Another Tunisian official, Foreign Minister Rafiq Abd A-Salaam, told his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle that Tunisia would never recognize Israel. He said that Tunisia and Germany “agreed on 90% of the issues, but disagreed on Israel.”

Last month Nahda leaders hosted Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyah in Tunisia, on his first oversees trip since 2007.