The Parliament of Iraq passed a law this Thursday according to which any normalization of relations with Israel would be illegal
It was on this Thursday that in a rare show of solidarity among the members of the Iraqi parliament, the country’s lawmakers passed an anti-Israeli bill. According to the new law, any effort to normalize relations with Israel is completely banned. This controversial move comes as several Arab countries in the region are beginning to strengthen formal bilateral ties with Israel.
Iraq-Israel relations have never experienced good days since 1938 when Israel came into existence on the land of Palestine. Since then, Iraq has never recognized the state of Israel and Iraqi citizens and companies are not allowed to visit Israel. But this was seemingly not enough as the new bill goes even further.
In defining ‘any attempt to normalize relations with Israel’, the says normalization would include “communication and contact by any means with the Zionist entity and with its representatives by an Iraqi individual, institution or organization in the cultural, political, scientific, commercial, economic, media or security sphere”.
In the context of the bill, it is also mentioned that the legislation was drafted “in order to preserve the national and Islamic principles in Iraq and the constants of the Iraqi people in defending Palestine and its people and all the Arab peoples whose lands are occupied.”
If the bill is signed by Iraq’s president and is made into law, then it would be illegal for Iraqis inside or outside the country to engage in any form with Israel. Yet it is also important to take into account that so far, the Iraqi parliament has been unable to address major issues such as electing a new president and forming its own government.
Who first proposed the bill?
The bill was first proposed by the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposes close ties with the US and Israel. His party could win a total of 73 out of 329 seats in elections last October. This is the largest number of seats of any single bloc in Iraq’s parliament. Sadr has also been negotiating to form a government in Iraq for the past eight months.
“Sadr is trying to pull the rug from underneath the other people’s feet,” says Hiwa Osman, a political analyst based in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, referring to the competition between Sadr and other political factions inside Iraq.
In the parliament and on the day of voting for the bill, Iraqi Shi’ite lawmaker Hassan Salim said: “approving the law is not only a victory for the Iraqi people but to the heroes in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
But the move was not met with this kind of applauding outside Iraq. In the US, for example, the State Department issued a statement this Friday and strongly condemned the move; “The United States is deeply disturbed by the Iraqi Parliament’s passage of legislation that criminalizes normalization of relations with Israel.”
The statement read, adding also that Washington ‘will continue to be a strong and unwavering partner in supporting Israel, including as it expands ties with its neighbors in the pursuit of greater peace and prosperity for all.”
The bill was passed “unanimously,” this Thursday evening, but according to Iraq’s constitution, it must be signed by the president to become effective.
However, even if the president never signs it, the bill would take effect within 15 days anyway.