ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Three delegations from Iraq secretly visited Israel in the past few months and reportedly met with government officials, as well as academics, to discuss Iraqi-Jewish heritage and build a foundation for future ties between the two countries, an Israeli television channel claimed on Sunday.
The delegates were some 15 Iraqis who met with Israeli academics and government officials, as well as visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Hadashot TV news reported.
Such visits are highly uncommon since Iraq is formally at war with Israel and is a member of the Arab League which boycotts Israel. The country has prohibited its passport holders from traveling to Israel.
زارت إسرائيل ٣ وفود من العراق خلال العام الأخير، حيث تم زيارة الوفد الثالث قبل عدة أسابيع. وضمت الوفود شخصيات سنية وشيعية لها تأثير بالعراق. زارت هذه الشخصيات متحف ياد فاشيم لتخليد ذكرى المحرقة، واجتمعت بأكاديميين ومسؤولين اسرائيليين. وزارة الخارجية الإسرائيلية تدعم هذه المبادرة. pic.twitter.com/DGy3gdSK3G— إسرائيل بالعربية (@IsraelArabic) January 6, 2019
The visits were unofficial and “under conditions of great secrecy,” according to the TV channel.
The delegates were not from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which has been more open to the Jewish state, the TV report stressed, but rather from “Iraq proper- that is, Baghdad.” The three delegations included Sunni and Shia members – “influential figures in Iraq.”
The report did not identify the members of the delegations, nor did it specify with which government officials they held meetings in Israel, but stated that the last visit took place in December.
The meetings were mostly of a “social-cultural nature,” the TV reported. The goal of the three visits was “to build ground for future ties” between Iraq and Israel, with delegates returning to Iraq as “kinds of future ambassadors” for Israel there, Hadashot added.
الاعتراف بالخطأ فضيلة— ايدي كوهين אדי כהן (@EdyCohen) January 6, 2019
اعترف بأنني لم اكن اعلم حول التقارب العراقي الإسرائيلي في الآونة الأخيرة. من مكالمات اجريتها منذ دقائق مع مسؤولين كبار في إسرائيل علمت بأن اكثر من ١٢ النائب زاروا إسرائيل سرا عبر الأردن أو تركيا او دولة اوروبية من مطلع عام ٢٠١٨. عيون صدام تشوف..
The Jewish community in Iraq is the oldest outside of Israel. Between 1950-1952, around 120,000 – 130,000 Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel, leaving a community of some 10,000 in the country. Nowadays, there are an estimated 230,000 Iraqi Jewish descendants in Israel.
Over the past decades, Iraq has been in a formal state of war with Israel. Iraqi forces participated in the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel. A decade later, in 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, which was built by Saddam Hussein in the southeast of Baghdad, named Osirak.
Nowadays, Iraq and Israel hold no diplomatic, socio-cultural, or economic relations.
Editing by Nadia Riva