TUNIS – Israeli tourists aboard a cruise ship were prevented from entering Tunisia due to a surprise decision by the Tunisian government, the cruise operator said on Monday.
“During Norwegian Jade’s port call in La Goulette, Tunisia on Sunday, March 9, 2014, a small number of guests holding Israeli passports were not allowed to go ashore because of a last minute decision made by the Tunisian government,” the Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement.
“We apologise for any inconvenience to our guests and appreciate their understanding. We are reviewing this decision with the appropriate officials,” it said, adding that it would refund port taxes to the guests.
A tourism ministry official said the visitors were prevented from disembarking because of “a procedural problem,” saying they did not have visas.
The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
The issue of relations with Israel is a taboo subject in Tunisia, as it is in other Arab countries, and Tourism Minister Amel Karboul faced questions during her nomination regarding past travel to Israel, which she had made for professional reasons.
Tunisia hosted the Palestine Liberation Organisation from its 1982 expulsion from Lebanon until it returned to the Israeli-occupied territories in the 1990s during the Oslo peace process.
In 1996, Tunisia and Israel opened interest sections in each other’s country, but Tunis froze relations in 2000 in protest at Israel’s response to the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada.