Why the Iraqi Government Fears Peace with Israel

In response to more than 300 leaders and public figures who came together in the Iraqi city of Erbil to call for diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, the country’s president declared the gathering “illegal,” the prime minister accused it of inciting “sectarian hatred,” a court issued arrest warrants for the organizers, and pro-Iranian militias issued death threats. Washington, meanwhile, has been noticeably silent. Eli Lake writes:

[S]o far the U.S. has not offered a word of support for the private Iraqi citizens who are now facing legal and extra-legal threats for seeking [peace with an American ally]. The only public statement from the U.S. came from Colonel Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq. He tweeted that the U.S. “had no prior knowledge of the event, nor do we have any affiliation with its participants.” In other words, those Iraqis who want peace with Israel are on their own.

In the aftermath of the Erbil conference, one conclusion might be that most Iraqis are just not ready to make peace with Israel. . . . But there is a more plausible conclusion: Israel’s enemies are so afraid of a free debate on the Jewish state that they feel compelled to coerce a false consensus on the matter. As Joseph Braude, an organizer of the conference, told me: “The response has been a massive effort to destroy these people and send a message to the rest of the population who share their views to never open their mouths.”

The U.S. should protect the Iraqis who attended the Erbil conference. This is not only because it is in America’s interest that Iraq have a normal relationship with Israel. It is also because Iraq cannot be considered a free or democratic nation if its militias and courts are used to silence its own citizens.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Iraq, Israel-Arab relations, U.S. Foreign policy


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount