Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom started on Tuesday a visit to Tunisia in an attempt to further Arab-Israeli relations and participate in an international information convention in Tunis. Shalom, who was born in the Tunisian town of Gabes, is scheduled to meet with various officials to help bring Tunisian-Israeli relations to their pre-2000 level, before the Palestinian Intifada erupted.
Bilateral contacts between the two nations at the time were just short of full-diplomatic relations.
“Israel hopes we will see a continued improvement in our relations,” said an Israeli spokesman. He added, “There is no reason why the countries of North Africa cannot have a healthy and positive bilateral relationship with Israel."
Shalom is accompanied by Israeli Communications Minister, Dalia Itzik. The two are also expected to visit the island of Jerba to meet with Jewish community leaders there, according to Reuters. Shalom told Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday that his mother will also be in Tunisia, following a special invitation from Tunisian president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. She and Shalom are expected to visit in their Tunisia's hometown, the minister revealed.
It should be mentioned that plans for a visit to Tunisia by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were met by widespread popular protest.