Iraqi lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill criminalizing normalization of ties and any relations, including business ties, with Israel. The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment.
The law was approved with 275 lawmakers voting in favor of it in the 329-seat assembly. A parliament statement said the legislation is "a true reflection of the will of the people."
Influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliamentary elections last year, called for Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate this "great achievement." Hundreds later gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans.
Lawmakers from Sadr's party said they proposed the law to curb any claims by Iranian-backed rival parties that Sadr is making coalitions with Sunni and Kurds who may have secret ties with Israel.
It was unclear how the law will be implemented as Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country's formation in 1948; the two nations have no diplomatic relations. The legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the bill.
The parliament has been unable to convene on any other issue including electing a new president and forming its own government, prolonging a political standoff.
The United States said it was deeply disturbed by the Iraqi legislation. "In addition to jeopardizing freedom of expression and promoting an environment of antisemitism, this legislation stands in stark contrast to progress Iraq’s neighbors have made by building bridges and normalizing relations with Israel, creating new opportunities for people throughout the region," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Iran fired a dozen ballistic missiles towards the northern city of Erbil in the Kurdish-run north, saying it was targeting an Israeli intelligence base.
The home of Baz Karim, the CEO of the oil company KAR GROUP, was heavily damaged in the attack. KAR has been accused in the past of quietly selling oil to Israel.
A report by the Iraqi parliament's fact-finding committee said it found no evidence to support Iranian accusations of an Israeli spy base in Erbil.