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After Iraq, who will be next to criminalise ties with Israel: Algeria or Yemen’s Houthi government?

June 1, 2022 at 9:26 pm

An Iraqi security guard walks outside the parliament building in Baghdad as a scheduled vote for the republic’s president was indefinitely postponed after most major political blocs boycotted the parliamentary session on 7 February 2022. [SABAH ARAR/AFP via Getty Images]

Last week, Iraq’s Parliament passed a new law criminalising normalisation with Israel, becoming the first Arab country to formally ban normalisation with Israel. The motion was described in a statement as “a true reflection of the people”. The move has seen mixed reactions, with Iran praising the decision and Israel condemning it.

Amid growing western-backed normalisation of ties with Israel in the region, two other Arab states could soon be following Baghdad: Algeria and Yemen. This is to be expected, as they are also some of the most consistent and staunchly pro-Palestinian countries and like Iraq’s, the legislation will also reflect the strong anti-colonial sentiments of both societies.

Algiers is to host the Arab League summit this November (it was scheduled in March but further postponed after two years of pandemic-related cancellations). In December, ahead of the then-upcoming event, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, (who in 2019, shortly after being elected said that the Palestinian cause is a constant issue of Algeria’s foreign policy) pledged $100 million in aid to Palestine, “in keeping with Algeria’s revolutionary history and the entire Algerian people’s commitment to support the just Palestinian cause under all circumstances”.

Regarding Algeria hosting the summit, Tebboune also stated that Algeria intends “to put the Palestinian cause at the centre of this important event”.

Yemen’s Houthi-led de-facto government, the National Salvation Government (NSG) based in the capital, Sana’a, is also a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and resolutely anti-Zionist. Last month, Prime Minister Dr Abdulaziz Bin Habtour, maintained that Palestine was, and still is, “the central issue of the Muslim Ummah.” He made the comments ahead of the war-torn country’s Palestine Conference held during the month of Ramadan, stating that “Through this conference, we reaffirm our opposition to the normalisation between some Arab regimes and the Zionist enemy”.

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On 17 May, a group of Algerian lawmakers submitted a Bill intended to criminalise all forms of normalisation with the occupation state, including travel and both direct and indirect contact. The Bill was submitted by the Movement of Society for Peace, an Islamist party with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood which forms the largest opposition bloc in Parliament.

The Bill, which contains seven articles aimed at criminalising “normalisation with the Zionist entity” must first obtain a majority (50+1) of the first chamber of Parliament before being referred to a second chamber for final approval. The document is still undergoing revision by the first chamber and the National People’s Assembly’s Parliamentary Initiatives Office.

On Sunday, it was reported that legislatures in Sana’a are preparing a similar Bill that will prohibit all forms of normalisation with Israel which has usurped Palestinian and Syrian Arab lands. Prime Minister Habtoor was quoted by Al-Masirah as saying “We stand by the side of the Palestinian nation and their struggle in the face of Israeli threats to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the occupied Al-Quds city”.

Habtoor added that the frequent and brazen provocations in and around the compound of the Al-Aqsa, are an attempt by the Israelis to “illustrate their dominance” in the aftermath of their numerous normalisation deals with other Arab states.

It has since been reported on Monday that the draft Bill has been referred to the Special Committee in Parliament for study and will be voted on after the final draft has been approved. Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Abdulsalam Hashoul, was quoted as saying “We want a strict law that will befit the Yemeni people and reflects the Yemeni position in the face of the Zionist enemy, which is what we are currently working on”.

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Although neither Algeria nor Yemen have diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, the push for criminalisation of having relations with Israel can also be tied to legitimate security concerns.

Algeria’s neighbour, Morocco, was one of the four Arab states, along with Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain to join the US-brokered Abraham Accords; in fact, the Kingdom re-established diplomatic ties. The quartet join Egypt and Jordan who have long-standing peace agreements and relations with Israel.  A decades-old rivalry has existed between the two North African countries over the issue of the disputed Western Sahara, which is claimed by Rabat while the Sahrawi independence movement, the Polisario Front, is supported by Algeria.

Part of the peace agreement between Morocco and Israel entailed US recognition over Rabat’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara, which further raised tensions with Algeria, prompting the latter to sever ties with Rabat last year citing “hostile actions” by its neighbour. Closer military co-operation between Morocco and Israel will inevitably push Algeria to criminalise ties with Israel, but will also likely bring it closer to the Iran-led Axis of Resistance, of which Sana’a is already a part of.

From the NSG’s perspective, Israel is reportedly already active in the UAE-controlled Yemeni island of Socotra, with accusations that it is being used to establish a spy base in the region. Recent reports that Saudi Arabia which, along with the UAE, has been waging war against Yemen for the past seven years, is looking to normalise relations with Israel will understandably be a serious security issue for Sana’a.

Algeria and Yemen, thus, have the popular will and support of the people who are overwhelmingly loyal to the Palestinian cause behind their proposed legislations. Both countries will be further emboldened by Iraq’s move, legally cementing established foreign policy in opposition and defiance against western-aligned, pro-Zionist Arab governments. However, these developments will also have a security and, therefore, rational dimension and will have the propensity to polarise the wider region between axes of normalisation and resistance.

OPINION: Iraq banning ties with Israel, demonstrates only Iran-aligned Arab states oppose Zionism 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.