Tunisia, which does not recognize Israel, but is desperate for tourism, questions permitting Israelis into the country for annual pilgrimage.
Tunisians are embroiled in a heated debate over allowing Israeli tourists into the country, which does not recognize the Jewish state, before an annual pilgrimage that attracts Jews from around the world.
It is an open secret that Israelis have been visiting Tunisia for years on the quiet.
The dispute is not over Jews from third countries, who are openly welcome, just Israelis. People ask whether allowing them in is tantamount to recognition.
Annoyance in some quarters is such that members of the National Constituent Assembly have called for the tourism minister and an interior ministry official to be sacked.
Tunisia, like most other countries in the Arab world, does not recognize Israel, primarily out of solidarity with Palestinian demands for a state of their own.
But Tunisia is one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries, and some 1,500 Jews live there.
More than half are on the island of Djerba, where Africa’s oldest synagogue and the focus of the annual pilgrimage is located.
The debate comes just weeks after Israeli tourists aboard an American cruise ship were denied entry.
In response, Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line announced that its ships would not return to Tunisia in a potentially severe blow to a struggling economy three years after the ouster of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
At the time, Tourism Minister Amel Karboul said that “as in all the countries in the world, for certain nationalities, there are obligatory visas or passes”.