Tunisian politician calls for normalization with Israel

Mounir Batour, head of Tunisia Liberal Party, spars on air with MP who tore up Israeli flag, says ‘enmity toward Israel, love of Palestinian cause are not Tunisia’s real problems’

Liberal Tunisian Party Head Mounir Baator: Normalization of Ties with Israel Is in Tunisia's Best Interests

Liberal Tunisian Party Head Mounir Baator: Normalization of Ties with Israel Is in Tunisia's Best InterestsFollowing an incident in which Tunisian MP Ammar Amroussia ripped up an Israeli flag in a parliamentary session, in a push for legislation criminalizing ties with Israel, a Tunisian TV channel held a debate on the issue of normalization of ties between the two countries. Mounir Baator, head of the Liberal Tunisian Party, defended his party against MP Amroussia's accusations that they were a "fifth column" within Tunisia, "mercenaries fighting alongside the enemies." Baator rejected TV host Walid Zribi's suggestion that normalization of ties with Israel constituted treason, and said that normalization was in Tunisia's best interests in terms of economy and international relations and that the country's real problems were social and economic and did not pertain to the Palestinian issue. The debate aired on Tunisna TV on April 19.

Posted by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Tunisian political activist has called for normalization with Israel, saying it was “in Tunisia’s best interests.”

Mounir Batour, head of the Tunisia Liberal Party — which does not hold seats in parliament — spoke on Tunisna TV on April 19, debating an MP who tore up an Israeli flag during a session of parliament.

Batour said MP Ammar Amroussia’s actions were an empty gesture. “How was Israel affected by the tearing up of its flag? It was a meaningless gesture with no impact. He took an A4 sheet of paper and tore it up. It was nothing but a show.

“The State of Israel exists, it is a member in the United Nations and in all the international organizations, and its flag flies everywhere. So whether or not you tear it up is immaterial to Israel.”

He said his party called for “peace” and “normal economic relations with all countries.

“We believe that enmity toward Israel and love of the Palestinian cause are not Tunisia’s real problems today. Tunisia’s problems are social and economic,” he said.

Tunisian MP Ammar Amroussia (Tunisna TV screenshot, courtesy MEMRI)

Amroussia accused Batour and his party of being a fifth column in Tunisian society. “You are fighting as part of the enemy armies,” he shot.

“We are calling for peace,” Batour answered.

“You are calling for surrender,” Amroussia retorted.

Host Walid Zribi also suggested that normalization of ties with Israel could constitute treason, an assertion Batour disputed.

The two guests also argued about how to refer to Israel, with Amroussia insisting on calling the Jewish state “the Zionist entity” and Batour saying he would call it Israel.

Batour criticized Amroussia for singling out Israel while ignoring other conflicts.

“How come you do not cut ties with Iran, which has been occupying three United Arab Emirates islands since 1971? … Why don’t you boycott Turkey, which occupies the Sanjak of Alexandretta? The Sanjak of Alexandretta is larger than Palestine… Why don’t you boycott Egypt, which occupies Hala’ib of Sudan? Why don’t you boycott Spain… which occupies Ceuta and Melilla, along with 21 Moroccan islands?”

Tunisia last week held its first free municipal elections since its 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

The Islamist movement Ennahdha came first in several of the country’s main cities including Tunis, but fell short of winning outright majorities.

Nationwide, independent lists won 2,367 seats, just shy of a third of the total.

Ennahdha took 2,135 seats and the Nidaa Tounes party of President Beji Caid Essebsi clinched 1,595.

The election on Sunday was touted as another milestone on the road to democracy in the North African country, which has been praised for its transition from decades of dictatorship.

AFP contributed to this report.

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