EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: No one should be misled by the revelation that several Iraqi delegations visited Israel in 2018 into optimism about Iraqi-Israeli relations. Peace with Iraq remains very far away. Iraq is simply the next in line of Israel’s Arab neighbors who express interest in warming relations with the Jewish state when they are in distress, but have little to no intention of making peace a reality.
On January 6, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released an Arabic-language statement revealing that a number of delegations from Iraq had visited Israel in 2018, including influential Sunni and Shiite figures. The Foreign Ministry did not name names, but the news made waves in Iraq after it was leaked to the press that some visitors were sitting members of parliament. Many Iraqi lawmakers, including the Speaker of Parliament, demanded that an investigative committee be established and that officials who had come into contact with the “Zionist entity” be punished to the full extent of the law. Every political and public figure 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.
Most Israelis would like to be at peace with their neighbors, but decades of experience have cast doubts on the concessions required for what turns out to be a false peace. The 40-years-long 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 1994 peace treaty that allows Israel to lease two small areas of land – Naharaim in the northern Jordan Valley and Ghamr in the south.