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Time for an Israel-Iraq peace deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as the government approves the peace deal between Israel and the UAE, October 12, 2020 (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as the government approves the peace deal between Israel and the UAE, October 12, 2020
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

A peace deal would also guarantee the full support of the US and other Western countries toward securing a strong, democratic and independent Iraq.

The United Arab Emirates has become the first Arab country in decades to break through the fictional wall between Israel and Arab countries. It is now time for other countries, including Iraq, to follow in their footsteps to bring peace and prosperity into the region.
There is a rich history between the Jewish population of Israel and Mesopotamia, where Jews lived for thousands of years, and where they played a part in the construction of the country from the very beginning. Iraq’s Jewish community is the oldest Jewish community outside of Israel, dating back to the prophet Abraham. This community was established in Iraq for thousands of years, until the beginning of the first half of the twentieth century, when 120,000-130,000 Jewish Iraqis were airlifted to Israel.

Since the 1950s, various Iraqi regimes rejected the State of Israel and worked against it many times. However, despite these issues, the current situation is quite different, with a new pro-democratic Iraqi government in place. The new government, led by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is looking forward to expanding its diplomatic relations and broadening its economic, infrastructure and energy relations with other states.
On August 25, Kadhimi met with the presidents of Jordan and Egypt in Amman, Jordan. Kadhimi wanted to expand Iraq’s economic ties with its regional neighbors, and he believed that these three countries might one day play a vital role in the region. Just weeks after their meeting, the UAE signed a historic deal with Israel, followed by the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Even though the Iraqi prime minister’s spokesmen recently affirmed that Iraqi laws do not allow such relations with Israel, this may be challenged if there is a strong determination from both parties. Hassan Kaiba, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, announced that Israel wishes to build a relationship with Iraq and looks forward to signing a peace deal with it.
The Israeli government is interested in developing cultural and diplomatic ties with Iraq. In 2018, Israel’s Foreign Ministry launched a Facebook page, designed exclusively to appeal to Iraqis and to promote relations with the Iraqi people. The Times of Israel described the aim of the Arabic-language page as being to “serve as some sort of digital embassy to the war-torn country.”
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the page was the first of its kind to share the common history between some of Iraq’s Jews living in Israel and the land they left behind. Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem told the Times of Israel, “Social networks allow us to reach this audience – our neighbors – and present the true face of Israel, in a way that was not possible before.” The page is still active and currently has about 300,000 followers, as verified by Facebook. The page, which is named “Israel in the Iraqi Dialect,” promotes stories of Jewish Israelis with Iraqi backgrounds.
IRAQIS ARE also interested in developing ties with Israelis. In 2017, Sarah Idan, Miss Iraq 2017, visited Israel and posted a picture alongside her Israeli counterpart, Adar Gandelsman. On her first visit, Idan stated, “I have traveled thousands of miles and put my life in danger to express how tired we are of this endless war between our two countries.” She added that she documented her visit to promote “coexistence and regional peace.”
On July 6, 2019, Iraqi Ambassador to the US Farid Yaseen made a statement during a seminar in Virginia on the relationship between Iraqis and Jews. He asserted, “There are objective reasons that may lead to the establishment of relations between Iraq and Israel, including the presence of a significant Iraqi community in Israel, which still cherishes its culture and traditions.”
An Iraqi-Israel peace deal would send a strong message to Iran, and remind the world of its imperialist policies toward the region. A peace deal would also guarantee the full support of the US and other Western countries toward securing a strong, democratic and independent Iraq.
In an article in the Maariv newspaper, Jackie Khoji noted that many Shias in Iraq are now expressing support and empathy for Israel. They have not forgotten the Palestinian support for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. They are therefore looking for links that unite them with Israel. She further argued that some Iraqi intellectuals believe hostility toward Israel does not work in favor of Iraqi Shias, and that they should work toward reaching a deal that will preserve stability and peace in the Middle East.
More than at any other time, Iraqis are now eager to free themselves from the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups, at almost any price. In the last several months, Iraqi protesters have demanded an end to Iran’s involvement in Iraq’s internal affairs, along with the weakening of the Shia militias that are heavily backed by Iran. In several Iraqi cities, protesters have attacked militia groups’ offices and burned some of them down. Prof. Paul Sullivan, of the US National Defense University, believes that “many Iraqis are fed up with Iran’s influence in their country, including Iraqi Shias.”
To counter Tehran’s influence, the new government in Baghdad should step up and try to gradually normalize relations with Israel. This might be the only way to counter Iran and Turkey’s influence, and to acquire real independence from neighboring countries. Further peace deals between Israel and her Arab neighbors will further devastate the Iranian regime and weaken its involvement in the internal dealings of Gulf countries.
Iraq should destroy the taboo against normalizing relations with Israel, the most developed country in the Middle East

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