The Iraqi parliament yesterday demanded a probe into reports that three delegations of Iraqi leaders visited Israel.
In a statement yesterday, First Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi parliament Hassan Karim Al-Kaabi called for “an investigation to identify those who went to the occupied territory [Israel], particularly if they are lawmakers.” Al-Kaabi added: “To go to the occupied territory is a red line and an extremely sensitive issue for all Muslims,” the Times of Israel reported.
Meanwhile, other Iraqi officials claimed that the visit – in which several delegations of Iraqi leaders allegedly travelled to Israel – did not take place at all. The New Arab claimed that an unnamed Iraqi cabinet official had told the newspaper in a phone call yesterday that the claim of a visit was “misleading”. The cabinet official added: “The information we have asserts that no one has left Iraq to visit the Zionist entity.”
Iraq’s response comes just a day after Israeli media revealed that delegations of Sunni and Shia Iraqi leaders visited Israel on three separate occasions in late 2018. A total of 15 Iraqi leaders are thought to have travelled to Israel, during which time they met with Israeli government officials, academics and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem – a site often visited by foreign dignitaries on official visits to Israel.
Though the identities of the visitors were not revealed, yesterday Israeli media had said that the delegates “were not from Iraqi Kurdistan […] but rather from Iraq proper — that is, Baghdad”.
Edy Cohen, an academic at right-wing Israeli think tank the Begin-Sadat Centre, fuelled speculation further by tweeting that the delegation included Iraqi politician Ahmed Al-Jubouri, as well as a number of Iraqi MPs from Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces in northern Iraq including Ahmed Al-Jarba, Abdulrahman Al-Shammari, Khalid Al-Mafraji, Aliaa Nassif and former MP Abdul Rahim Al-Louwaizi.
For his part, Al-Jubouri strongly denied Cohen’s claim, writing on Twitter that he would “not set foot on [Palestinian] soil” until “we are conquerors and liberators” of Palestine, Middle East Eye reported.
That the Iraqi delegates were “from Iraq proper” rather than Iraqi Kurdistan is significant in light of the fact that Iraq and Israel do not hold formal diplomatic relations. The two countries are technically at war as a result of Iraq’s involvement in both the 1967 War and 1973 War, both of which ended without formal peace deals being reached. Though Iraqi Kurdistan has fostered relations with Israel over the years, Iraq itself has followed the Arab League’s boycott of Israel and resisted calls from Israel’s Iraqi-Jewish community to build ties between the two countries.