Foreign Ministry slams Iraqi law banning ties with Israel: ‘Wrong side of history’

Israel says normalization agreements with Arab states are future of stability, prosperity in Middle East; calls on Iraqi people not to support ‘extremist position’

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on May 26, 2022, to celebrate the passing of a bill that criminalizes normalization of ties with Israel. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on May 26, 2022, to celebrate the passing of a bill that criminalizes normalization of ties with Israel. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

The Foreign Ministry condemned on Friday a new Iraqi law that criminalizes normalization of ties and any relations with Israel, noting that it came as the Jewish state is expanding links with the Arab world.

The Iraqi legislation passed on Thursday declares that violation of the law is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

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

“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,” he said.

“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,” Haiat said.

The diplomat said that leaders “who choose a path of hate and incitement hurt their own people first of all,” and concluded with a call for the people of Iraq not to give their support to “this extremist position.”

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, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The law was approved on Thursday with 275 Iraqi 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.

It was unclear how the law will be implemented as Iraq has not recognized Israel; the two nations have no diplomatic relations and officially remain in a state of war since 1948.

The legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the bill.

In addition to Israel’s condemnation, the US lambasted the move on Friday, saying it fosters “an environment of antisemitism.”

“The United States is deeply disturbed by the Iraqi Parliament’s passage of legislation that criminalizes normalization of relations with Israel,” the State Department said in a statement.

The State Department also reiterated America’s “strong and unwavering support” for Israel, “including as it expands ties with its neighbors in the pursuit of greater peace and prosperity for all.”

The statement was the latest demonstration of support from the Biden administration for the normalization agreements known as the Abraham Accords that Israel signed with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020. The administration has yet to broker any additional agreements, focusing primarily on strengthening existing ones, but is reportedly in talks with Saudi Arabia about an agreement that could include steps by Riyadh toward normalization with Jerusalem.

“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,” the State Department continued.

Last year, more than 300 Iraqis gathered in the Kurdish capital of Erbil for a conference where speakers called for normalizing ties with Israel. The event was quickly condemned by the government in Baghdad.

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