Iraq’s parliament has passed a law that makes it a crime to normalise ties with Israel, and violations of the law can be punishable with a death sentence or life imprisonment.
The law, titled “Criminalising Normalisation and Establishment of Relations with the Zionist Entity”, was approved on Thursday with 275 legislators voting in favour of it in Iraq’s 329-seat assembly.
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The parliament said in a statement that the legislation was “a true reflection of the will of the people”.
Iraq’s parliament has been unable to convene on any other issue bar the law prohibiting ties with Israel, including electing a new president and forming its own government, which has prolonged a political standoff in the country.
Iraq has never recognised Israel and Iraqi citizens and companies cannot visit Israel; the two nations have no diplomatic relations.
The new legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the law, which applies to all Iraqis, state and independent institutions, as well as foreigners working in the country, according to a text carried by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).
The law was proposed by influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose party, which opposes close ties with the United States and Israel, won more seats in the Iraqi parliament in elections last October.
The cleric called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate the “great achievement” of the legislation’s passing.
Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans. The gathering occurred in Tahrir Square following a tweet by al-Sadr, who urged his followers to offer prayers of thanks and come out on the streets to celebrate.
Legislators from al-Sadr’s party said they proposed the law to curb any claims by Iranian-backed rival parties that al-Sadr was making coalitions with Sunni and Kurds who may have secret ties with Israel.
Earlier this year, Iran fired a dozen ballistic missiles towards the city of Irbil in the Kurdish-run north of Iraq, 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.
The new legislation also comes months after a controversial conference was held in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan, promoting the normalising of ties with Israel. The conference took place last September and followed in the footsteps of other Arab countries that signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords on normalising relations.
Some Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are forging ties with Israel against a backdrop of shared concerns about the threat that Iran may pose to the region.
Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, has made it a condition of any eventual normalisation with Israel that the Palestinian quest for statehood on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war be addressed.