On Jan. 6, the Foreign Ministry released a statement in Arabic revealing that a number of delegations from Iraq had visited Israel, including influential Sunni and Shi’ite figures in the country, in 2018. The Foreign Ministry did not name names.
The news made waves in Iraq after it was leaked to the press that some of the officials that took part in the delegation were sitting members of parliament. Many lawmakers, including the head of Iraq’s parliament, demanded an investigative committee be established and officials who came into contact with the “Zionist entity” be punished to the full extent of the law. Everyone in the country was outspoken about their opposition to the normalization of ties with Israel—everyone that is, except for one former lawmaker. But we’ll get to him later.
A majority of Israelis would like to be at peace with our neighbors, but decades of experience have led us to seriously contemplate the concessions we are interested in making in return for a false peace. Peace with Egypt is very cold, and peace ties with Jordan are at a rough spot following Amman’s refusal to renew part of the Hashemite kingdom’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel that allows Israel to lease two small areas of land—Naharayim in the northern Jordan Valley and Ghamr in the south.
It Is evident that our neighbors are only interested in making peace with us because they are in distress. They have learned how to acquire Israeli aid through empty promises of future peaceful relations. The examples of this are many. In the 1980s, the Christians in Lebanon sold Israel the illusion of a future peace that would be made possible once the Palestinians were removed from Lebanon. This led Israel to show up in Beirut and expel the Palestinians, among other things. The outcome of all this is of course well-known.
With the help of social-media networks and mass Syrian immigration to Europe, many Israelis have been able to communicate with members of Syria’s opposition in recent years. These opposition members have expressed interest in making peace with Israel, after it helps bring down Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Well, Assad hasn’t been removed from power, and there is no peace with Syria.
Immediately after the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, dozens of Iraqi parliamentarians arrived in Israel, a majority of them afraid to make their visit public. The most conspicuous of them was Parliament member Mithal al-Alusi, who did not fear public knowledge of his Israel visit. Israeli commentators saw his bold stance as proof the winds of peace were blowing from Baghdad. Except a short while later, he was kicked out of parliament and his two children were murdered. Al-Alusi was never again elected to parliament. He wasn’t able to pass the electoral threshold.
Iraq is a failed state. Despite being one of the richest countries when it comes to natural resources, it is unable to provide its residents with electricity and drinking water. Iraqis are sick of living such lives. They are sick of standing idly by as their oil and other natural treasures are stolen by Iran, which has controlled Iraq through Shi’ite militias ever since Saddam Hussein’s fall from power. The Iraqis, who are interested in freeing themselves of the Iranians at any price, are now asking for Israel’s military assistance in return for empty promises of peace. Unfortunately, Israel is allocating substantial resources towards this hopeless end.
There are tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Europe who cannot return to their homeland. They hope that Israel will help remove the Iranians from Iraq, and promise us peace when they return home and take control of the government. And so, let us add Iraq to the list of Arab countries that seek Israeli aid in return for promises of a future peace and pay us the same kind of lip service we were paid by the Christians in Lebanon in the 1980s, and most recently, with the opposition fighters in Syria.
Peace with Iraq is light years away. In October 2017, the Iraqi parliament passed a law prohibiting the raising of the Israeli flag in the country and punishing violators with jail time. If we haven’t learned from past experiences, let us at the very least read the present situation correctly.
Dr. Edy Cohen is a researcher at the BESA Center and author of the book “The Holocaust in the Eyes of Mahmoud Abbas” (Hebrew).