By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Iraqi Citizens’ Sentiment may be Softening toward Israel
Some Iraqis are calling for closer relations with Israel, feeling a common bond of past persecution and a desire for peace and stability. Many people might find two factors cited in this change quite surprising: Iraqis’ guilt, and some resentment of Palestinians.
“There is a dramatic shift that has changed [Iraqi] public opinion [toward Israel] as a result of the Palestinians’ involvement in supporting the [late Iraqi] dictator Saddam Hussein and thus getting involved in terrorist operations,” writer and political analyst Ali Mared al-Asadi told Al-Monitor recently by phone.
“Most Shiites in Iraq have a sense of guilt because they did not support the peaceful Jewish community with whom they lived for hundreds of years in peace and harmony in one homeland, but who were persecuted and displaced during the monarchy [1958-1963] and the Baathist regime [1968-2003] eras.”
Much of the fanaticism and hostility toward Israel appears to have declined in central and southern Baghdad, where the majority of people are Shiite.
On Sept. 9, Asadi wrote, “It is not in the interest of Shiites to antagonize Israel. Shiites and Jews ought to reach understandings based on common humanitarian grounds that guarantee peaceful coexistence in the Middle East.”
Asadi told Al-Monitor by phone, “If we put the influence of Iran and the remnants of the Baathist culture aside, Iraq would have no excuse to keep officially antagonizing Israel, especially since the majority of the Arab states, [even] the Palestinian state itself, hold relations with Tel Aviv.” Asadi apparently was referring to Arab states having contacts or other ties with Tel Aviv, because most Arab states do not formally recognize Israel..
Many Sunnis also seem to favor closer ties. Political analyst Maher Abed Jawdah told Al-Monitor, “Even Iraqi Sunnis are in tune with Sunnis in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf countries in establishing good relations with Israel, mainly because they are driven by the same hate toward Iranian Shiites, who are very hostile against Israel.”
Much of the favorable sentiment in Iraq is coming from Kurds. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) supports the Kurdish quest for an independent state in northern Iraq. This has pushed some Kurds to promote the idea of openness to Israel and to call for turning their relationship into an official one. Some media outlets even showed Kurdish cities raising the Israeli flag next to the Kurdish flag as they prepared for a Sept. 25 vote on a nonbinding independence referendum, which passed overwhelmingly.