Recently a grand gathering of 314 Iraqi notables including tribal leaders, generals, politicians, intellectuals took place in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where everyone agreed on one thing that Iraq should recognize, and make peace with, and normalize relations with, Israel – in other words, that Iraq should join the Abraham Accords. Similar sentiment is also growing in a number of Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular in willing to normalize relations with the Jewish State. Meanwhile, Palestinian terror outfit Hamas has vowed to establish deeper relations with Iran and its proxies including Hezbollah and Houthis. Leaders of Hamas has also openly vowed to “drive-away Jews from the Middle East”, which certainly is a very dangerous issue.
According to Sahr al-Ta’i, an Iraqi cultural official who participated in the conference, several working groups will be formed in the wake of the conference, including committees to improve ties between Iraq and its Jewish diaspora, trade and investment, educational reform, and advocating for the repeal of Iraq’s anti-normalization laws.
Iraqi officials have said their country will not normalize ties with Israel without a just resolution of the Palestinian issue. But in 2019, Iraqi ambassador to the United States Farid Yassin noted that there were “objective reasons” to establish ties between the two countries.
“But the objective reasons are not enough”, Yassin added, stressing that there are “emotional and other reasons” that make open communication between Jerusalem and Baghdad impossible.
When Ambassador Yassin spoke about the “emotional and other reasons” that made open communication between Iraq and Israel “impossible”, it was 2019, a year before the Abraham Accords, that is, before four Arab states chose to normalize ties with Israel. That they have now done so makes all the difference; it will be possible for other Arab states to follow suit, and clearly, the more than 300 notables who met in Erbil to push for Iraq’s joining the Abraham Accords no longer thought such a move “impossible”.
Many Palestinians strongly oppose normalization between Israel and the broader Arab world. Both Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas terror group described last year’s normalization accords as a “betrayal”.
A report on that meeting is here: “Hundreds of Iraqi notables call to join Abraham Accords, make peace with Israel,” by Aaron Boxerman and Lazar Berman, Times of Israel, September 25, 2021:
In an unprecedented plea for regional reconciliation, over 300 prominent Iraqis called for their country to normalize ties with Israel on Friday night.
“We demand full diplomatic relations with the State of Israel…and a new policy of normalization based on people-to-people relations with the citizens of that country,” said Wissam al-Hardan, who commanded Sunni tribal militias that aligned with the United States to fight al-Qaeda in 2005 in response to the power vacuum that followed the 2003 American invasion.
Iraq has officially been at war with Israel since the Jewish state was founded in 1948. Iraqi soldiers have fought in three successive Arab wars against Israel. Saddam Hussein’s secret nuclear weapons program alarmed Israel, which ultimately destroyed the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981, and in 1991, the Iraqi dictator fired dozens of Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and Haifa in an attempt to draw Israel into the Gulf War.
At Friday’s conference in the Kurdistan region, Iraqi participants called on their country’s leaders to end the state of war and join the so-called Abraham Accords. The agreements, formulated by the administration of former US President Donald Trump, were signed on the White House lawn in September 2020 between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Morocco and Sudan signed normalization agreements with Israel in the ensuing months.
“Abraham, peace be upon him, birthed a nation that paved the way for peace. Today, we and all his descendants from the three main religions bear responsibility to complete this path together,” said Maj. Gen. Amir al-Jubouri, a former senior Iraqi army commander who participated in an unsuccessful coup d’etat against Saddam Hussein in 1989.
To have a former senior military officer of Iraq, a country which has participated in all the major Arab-Israeli wars, now call — along wih 313 other prominent citizens — for his country to make peace, and normalize ties, with Israel, without any preconditions, is extraordinary.
Al-Hardan contrasted the states that had joined the Abraham Accords with what he deemed the “warlordism and devastation” that reigned elsewhere in the region.
“We must choose between tyranny and chaos on the one hand, and an emerging axis of legality, decency, peace, and progress on the other,” al-Hardan told the attendees.
Al-Hardan can see the immediate benefits to those Arab states close to home that have joined the Abraham Accords. Bahrain has entered into trade and tourism agreements with Israel, which has also agreed to share with Bahrain its advances in two key areas – water management (drip irrigation, desalinization, producing water from the ambient air, waste water recycling) and solar energy. Even more astounding has been the experience of the U.A.E., the first Arab member of the Abraham Accords. Israel and the U.A.E. have already signed off on over $600 million in bilateral trade for the first half of this year, in areas like food, agriculture, healthcare, aviation, water and energy, as well as dozens of MOUs (memorandums of understanding) that outline existing and future deals. The U.A.E. is predicting that such deals between the Israel could reach more than $1 trillion over the next decade. That stratospheric figure was predicted in mid-September by the Emirati Minister of Economy, Abdullah bin Touq Al-Marri, during a virtual event marking the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords.
The gathering which included Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim tribal leaders, social activists and former military commanders, took place in the Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil. It was organized by the Center for Peace Communications, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to advance closer ties between Israelis and the Arab world.
Although in my opinion there are positive vibes in the Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations about normalizing relations with Israel, few obstacles may delay the process or even discourage some Muslim nations in stepping-back from the enthusiasm of recognizing the Jewish State.
First of all, Jewish media and the think-tanks should not label every Muslim as terrorist or jihadist, while they should not unnecessarily demonize the Prophet of Islam, as because, such tendencies will only become a propaganda tool for the enemies of Jews and Israel in emotionally blackmailing the Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations. Those who are demonizing the Prophet of Islam should know, none of the Muslims are ever doing such wrong things about Moses, Jesus or other prophets. By demonizing the prophet of the second-largest religion in the world, Jewish scholars or media actually will gain nothing. Instead they will backstab the prospect of normalization of relations with the State of Israel.
Secondly, Israel needs to encourage those pro-Semitic and friendly media in the Muslim world. If Israel and the Jewish community continue to ignore the pro-Israel media in the Muslim world, it will only create an impression amongst the Muslims who may start thinking, to Israel and the Jews, while anti-Israel and anti-Semitic media are important, friendly media in the Muslim world are totally irrelevant or unimportant. Policymakers in Israel needs to understand, for the sake of normalizing relations with the Muslim nations, only Muslim press can play vital roles in numerous ways.
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