Iraq Illegalizes Ties With Israel; US, Israel Slams Move

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr hold posters with his photo as they celebrate the passing of a law criminalizing the normalization of ties with Israel, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

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Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill criminalizing the normalization of ties and any relations, including business ties, with Israel. The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with a death sentence or life imprisonment.

The law was approved with 275 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 329-seat assembly. A parliament statement said the legislation is “a true reflection of the will of the people.”

Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year, called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate this “”great achievement.” Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Friday slammed the new law, saying that it puts Iraq “on the wrong side of history.”

“This is a law that puts Iraq and the Iraqi people on the wrong side of history and disconnected from reality,” a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson stated.

“Israel condemns the decision by the Iraqi parliament to pass legislation against normalization with Israel and that imposes the death penalty on one who has contact with Israel. The changes in the Middle East and the peace and normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, which are bringing stability and prosperity to the peoples of the region, are the future of the Middle East.”

It was unclear how the law will be implemented as Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country’s formation in 1948; the two nations have no diplomatic relations. The legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the bill.

The United States said it was deeply disturbed by the Iraqi legislation. “In addition to jeopardizing freedom of expression and promoting an environment of antisemitism, this legislation stands in stark contrast to progress Iraq’s neighbors have made by building bridges and normalizing relations with Israel, creating new opportunities for people throughout the region,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Iran fired a dozen ballistic missiles towards the northern city of Irbil in the Kurdish-run north, saying it was targeting an Israeli intelligence base.

The home of Baz Karim, the CEO of the oil company KAR GROUP, was heavily damaged in the attack. KAR has been accused in the past of quietly selling oil to Israel.

A report by the Iraqi parliament’s fact-finding committee said it found no evidence to support Iranian accusations of an Israeli spy base in Irbil.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)