Tunisian president rules out any chance of establishing diplomatic ties with Israel

Kais Saied says the word ‘normalization’ does not exist for him when it comes to Jewish state, days after news of Libya-Israel FM meeting sparked fierce backlash

Tunisian President Kais Saied takes part in a meeting at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome on July 24, 2023. (Handout / Quirinale Press Office / AFP)
Tunisian President Kais Saied takes part in a meeting at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome on July 24, 2023. (Handout / Quirinale Press Office / AFP)

Tunisian President Kais Saied said this week that the word “normalization” does not exist for him when it comes to Israel.

Saied made the comments at a meeting for foreign ambassadors in the capital Tunis on Tuesday, according to the Tunisian news website Nessma.

Saied called on the newly appointed ambassadors from four countries — Serbia, Iran, Iraq and Turkey — to never forget the Palestinian cause, the “central issue for all nations.”

The Tunisian president stressed the importance of advocating for Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state, for a “right of return” to today’s Israel for Palestinian refugees, and for the Palestinian people to regain their rights over “all of Palestine.”

The comments came two days after Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced a meeting with his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush in Rome last week, causing an uproar in the North African country and in Israel.

Mangoush was fired from her post and has fled the country to Turkey, according to Libyan officials.

Libyans burn a shirt showing an Israeli flag, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush, in Tripoli, Libya, August 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Yousef Murad)

Following Cohen’s revelation of the meeting, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh visited the Palestinian embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Monday to affirm his country’s continued support of the Palestinian cause.

Ever since Israel signed the groundbreaking US-brokered Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco in 2020, and later Sudan, the Jewish state has sought to expand normalization efforts to additional countries.

In recent months, Washington has reportedly led talks to forge some sort of deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a major regional power broker that also recently renewed ties with Iran.

But as Israel’s alliances in the region have expanded, some Arab and Muslim nations have doubled down on their refusal to establish ties with Jerusalem without a final status agreement with the Palestinians.

Last week, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that while “we don’t have a war with Israel, the Israelis have an occupation over the Palestinians.” Al-Thani stressed that any normalization agreement between an Arab nation and Israel without the creation of a Palestinian state “doesn’t represent peace.”

Last year, Iraq passed a law criminalizing any normalization of relations, including business ties, with Israel. The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Rumored talks with Indonesia have been floated in the past, but the country later lost the right to host the U-20 World Cup after refusing to allow Israelis to take part.

While Kuwait has also been rumored to be considering such ties, officials have said in the past the country would be the “last to normalize” relations with Israel.

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