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The New Arab Staff

Outrage after former Tunisia PM says he will 'shake hands with Israelis' at UAE conference

Former Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed confirmed he will be attending the event [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 March, 2021

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Tunisia has refused to follow in the footsteps of the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco and normalise ties with Israel.

Former Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed was met with an outpouring of criticism after confirming his participation in an upcoming conference organised by the UAE and attended by Israeli officials. 

The decision to take part in the Dubai World Summit on 24 March sparked anger in Tunisia, a country that refused to follow in the footsteps of the UAE, Morocco and others by normalising ties with Israel.

Former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Silvan Shalom will attend the event, which is set to focus on the "international balance of power in the post-pandemic world".

Former Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan Nahum, and other officials from Israel are also scheduled to attend.

Chahed, who served as Tunisia's prime minister between August 2016 and February 2020, was elected president of the newly-founded secular party Tahya Tounes in June 2019.

Murad Al-Yaqoubi, a university professor and researcher in Palestinian affairs, condemned Chahed's decision to participate in the summit and asked whether it could be part of Israel's normalisation strategy for the Arab world. Others have echoed this claim.

Read also: Tunisia rights activist walks free after appeal 

Many among Tunisia's political leaders and prominent activist groups have called for a constitutional amendment that would criminalise any form of normaliation with the Israel. 

Chahed is not the first politician to receive condemnation for interacting with Israeli nationals. Tunisian singer Nooman Chaari caused a stir in Tunisia in December after releasing a video clip of his latest song titled “Peace between Neighbours”, which he performed jointly with an Israeli singer. 

A New York Times report dented speculation in December that Tunisia and Oman would be the next Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel.

Tunisia’s foreign ministry denied the allegations. "As Tunisia respects the sovereign positions of other countries, it affirms that its stance is principled, and changes in the international scene will never affect it,” it said in a statement.

Palestinians have censured the US-brokered deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. The agreements are seen as a betrayal of their long-standing statehood demand.

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