Tunisia’s new tourism minister submitted her resignation mere hours after the country’s interim government was sworn in on Wednesday, following which she sustained heavy criticism for a visit she made to Israel in 2006.
The nation’s new technocratic government, headed by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, replaced an Islamist-led administration under an accord to end political turmoil and prepare for fresh elections.
During a marathon session of parliament to approve the new government, Amel Karboul was lambasted over her trip to Israel. Jomaa responded to the criticism, saying Karboul had flown to Israel to take part in a UN program for Palestinian youth, but left the country without even stepping out of the airport after being interrogated for hours by Israeli security personnel.
Parliament eventually accepted Jomaa’s lineup, with 149 lawmakers approving, 20 voting against and 24 abstaining.
But Karboul decided to submit her resignation nonetheless, saying “it is the prime minister’s decision whether to accept my resignation or not.” No decision had been reported as of Thursday morning.
Karboul said her only purpose was to serve the Tunisian people. “Despite the difficulties, there are many opportunities that can be seized upon for the development and prosperity of Tunisia,” she said, adding that “in principle I never entered Israel proper after undergoing questioning at the Ben-Gurion airport border control for four hours, just because I am an Arab and a Muslim.”
The cabinet roster was only agreed after weeks of horse-trading. It replaces the government led by the Islamist Ennahda party, which last year stepped down as part of deal to end a crippling political crisis.
Jomaa, who was industry minister in the outgoing government, announced on Sunday that he had finally clinched a deal on the apolitical line-up.
But he still faced a tougher than expected time Tuesday in parliament, where he spent more than 12 hours fending off accusations that his caretaker cabinet included members of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s former regime.
Under the roadmap agreed by Tunisia’s rival factions to end the impasse, parliamentary and presidential polls are due by the end of 2014.
Addressing parliament before the vote on his government line-up, Jomaa reiterated that his top priority was overseeing free elections.
He said that in the coming months his cabinet would also tackle the threat posed by the growth of jihadi groups and the huge social tension caused by unemployment.
In contrast, neighboring Libya and Egypt remain mired in instability and crippling political deadlocks three years after the Arab Spring.
AFP contributed to this report.