Violators of anti-Israel laws could face penalties including life imprisonment and even the death penalty.
The Iraqi parliament has passed a law that makes normalizing relations with Israel a crime, punishable by death or life imprisonment if violated.
The law, titled “Criminalizing Normalization and Relationships with Zionist Entities,” was approved on Thursday by 275 lawmakers in Iraq’s 329-seat parliament.
Parliament said in a statement that the legislation “truly reflects the will of the people”.
Iraq’s parliament has been unable to meet on any issues other than laws banning ties with Israel, including electing a new president and forming its own government, prolonging the country’s political stalemate.
Iraq has never recognized Israel, and Iraqi citizens and companies cannot visit Israel; the two countries have no diplomatic relations.
The new legislation also poses a risk to companies working in Iraq and found to have violated the law, which applies to all Iraqis, state and independent institutions, and foreigners working in the country, according to Iraqi News. Agency (INA).
The law was proposed by an influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr Political parties opposed to close ties to the United States and Israel won more seats in Iraq’s parliament in elections last October.
The cleric called on Iraqis to take to the streets to celebrate the “great achievement” of the passage of the legislation.
Hundreds of people then gathered in central Baghdad, chanting anti-Israel slogans. Sadr posted a tweet urging his followers to pray and take to the streets to celebrate at Tahrir Square.
Lawmakers in Sadr’s party said they introduced the law to curb claims by rival Iran-backed parties that Sadr was allying with Sunnis and Kurds who may have secret ties to Israel.
Earlier this year, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at the Kurdish-held city of Erbil in northern Iraq, saying it targeted an Israeli intelligence base. The home of Baz Karim, CEO of oil company KAR GROUP, was severely damaged in the attack.
KAR has been accused in the past of quietly selling oil to Israel.
The new legislation also comes months after a controversial meeting in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan aimed at normalizing relations with Israel. The meeting, held last September, followed in the footsteps of other Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accord, brokered by the United States, aimed at normalizing relations.
A number of Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are forging ties with Israel against the backdrop of shared concerns that Iran could pose a threat to the region.
Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, has made it a condition for eventual normalization with Israel to resolve Palestinian claims to statehood in territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.