From a scrubbed white terrace at the beachfront Salwa Hotes -- expected to be the working home soon of a group of Palestinian leaders led by Yasser Arafat -- Yousef Bouagila, the hotel manager, pointed to the bazaar off to one side, the two tennis courts, the horses and camels available for riding.
Then, showing a flair for Tunisian hospitality, Bouagila said, "I think the PLO are going to like it here."
Proudly, but with a trace of underlying anxiety, Tunisia is awaiting the arrival early Thursday of a boatload of 1,100 Palestine Liberation Organization guerrillas and their leaders, as officials express the hope that this Arab nation's reputation for moderation will rub off on the militant organization.
Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba yesterday took an initial step to that end, issuing a statement saying he planned to ask leaders at next month's Arab summit to accept a formula for the recognition of Israel based on the 1947 United Nations resolution that called for the partition of Palestine into both Israeli and Palestinian states.
Officials here, who say they expect the PLO leaders to make Tunisia a central point in the PLO network after it is dispersed from Beirut, express a sense of solidarity with what Tunisians consider to be PLO freedom fighters.
For this small country of 6.4 million residents wedged between Algeria and Libya on the North African coast, serving as a temporary headquarters for Arafat and some of his group is widely regarded as a humanitarian gesture, recalling the mid-1960s, when Algerian guerrillas were granted refuge here during the Algerian war of independence.
For Tunisia's 79-year-old president, who has ruled this state since its independence from France in 1956, playing host to the PLO is another enhancement to his credentials in the Arab world. The Arab League already is headquartered here.
The nature of the PLO offices here remained unclear. The dispersal of PLO forces to eight Arab states and the detachment of a number of key PLO executive committee members to Damascus, Syria, where the organization's 300-member Palestine National Council is expected to be located, leaves the location of the PLO's principal headquarters in doubt.
Government officials here, however, expect Arafat to keep at least one foot in Tunisia, and in that expectation, Tunisian officials see a chance to help the Palestinian leader build a more moderate political platform, encouraging the shift from military to political activity.
In presenting his proposal for recognition of Israel, Bourguiba now clearly figures that the general Arab attitude on the question has moderated. He made the same motion in a 1965 speech in Jericho, provoking the wrath of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and causing a number of Arab states to sever ties with Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Tunisians appear somewhat anxious about the specifics of their new role as host to the PLO.
About 150 PLO officers will be housed in the Salwa Hotel, located in the small coastal town of Bordj Cedria, about a 20-minute drive south of Tunis. The main contingent of guerrillas will be housed in a makeshift camp about an hour's drive west of Tunis near the town of Beja, an area of small hills and shrubs described by one U.S official as "looking a little like southern Lebanon."
In arranging for the hotel, the government advised its owners -- a family in Tunis -- that the facility would have to be made ready immediately for the arriving PLO leadership. At lunchtime yesterday manager Bouagila told about 350 vacationing guests that they would have to move out to other hotels being found for them in the area.
The hotel owners said they have received no word from the government about how they will be compensated for surrendering their luxury resort.
Tunisian officials say they have a kind of gentleman's agreement with the PLO that will allow the organization a certain freedom of operation on the understanding that the PLO will not interfere with Tunisian affairs or do anything that might harm the Tunisian national image.
In the beginning, at least, Tunisian authorities will control the flow of the Palestinian guerrillas in and out of the Beja camp strictly. The guerrillas will be asked to surrender their firearms to the Tunisian government before getting off the boat Thursday.
"The fact of their being fighters raises a number of questions for them and for us," a senior Tunisian official said, reflecting some of the future uncertainty here. "It will be up to the PLO to decide the real status of these people."