Former Iraqi politician to 'Post': Hope for normalization with Israel

"This honor is not just for me," he told the audience at the AJC Global Forum. "It is for all Iraqis who stand up against the fascists and the Iranian threat."

By OMRI NAHMIAS
June 10, 2019 00:51
3 minute read.
An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq March 4, 2018.

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq March 4, 2018.. (photo credit: THAIER AL-SUDANI/REUTERS)

 
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WASHINGTON – Mithal Jamal al-Alusi – an Iraqi politician who served in the Iraqi Parliament and who visited Israel three times, in an attempt to promote normalization between the two countries – was honored last week with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Jan Karski Award.

 
“This honor is not just for me,” he told the audience at the AJC Global Forum. “It is for all Iraqis who stand up against the fascists and the Iranian threat.”
He spoke about his visits to Israel in 2004, 2005 and 2008, and the death threats he received after each trip. “I will continue going there,” he added. “I will continue working for peace.”

“Mithal al-Alusi has demonstrated, in word and deed, profound personal courage in seeking to achieve his vision of a genuine breakthrough in relations between Arab nations and Israel, as well as democratization of his country and re-engagement with Iraqi Jews who fled abroad,” said AJC Incoming President Harriet Schleifer, who presented the award.

“Little has deterred Mithal, including personal tragedy, from pursuing his conviction, and we are pleased to honor Mr. al-Alusi again.”

Al-Alusi was a member of the first Iraqi government after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Both of his sons – Ayman, 29, and Jamal, 19 – were murdered near the family home, after he returned to Baghdad.

IN A CONVERSATION with The Jerusalem Post at the sidelines of the Global Forum, al-Alusi said that “normalization between Israel and Iraq could be real under the condition that nothing is pushing from outside Iraq. Now, we have Islamist militias and Iran. If [they] leave Iraq alone, it will reflect the Iraqi interests.”

Do you mean that the problem is not the directly between Israel and Iraq but the Iranian influence over Iraq?

“Absolutely. There is no real reason to be in a war with Israel.” Al-Alusi told the Post, but while there is a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, “there is no reason for Israel and Iraq to be in a state of war.” He also added that waiting for a green light from the Palestinian leadership to improve relations between Iraq and Israel is not in Iraq’s interest.
When asked how he decided to make his first visit to Israel, he told the Post: “I was willing to break the taboo. I thought that if you’d like to build a new Iraqi state, it was at 2003, we have to break this taboo and to try to go in a normal way. This is one of the reasons why I went to Israel.”

Speaking about Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran, al-Alusi said that “It very important step because everybody knows that Iran’s goal is to build an atomic bomb. They are playing [to buy] time. I believe that sanctions will never stop Iran from developing the nuclear program.”

Tell me about the award you received from AJC, and how important it was for you to get this recognition.

“It’s not for me. I’m now 66 years old. It is for young people. There is more sympathy or willing to understand and willing to know about Israel [among young people]. People today have new ways of communications. They use Facebook and YouTube and emojis. They want to live a normal life. You can’t steal their new way of life and dreams.

|You cannot control them. This is a fact. That’s why the Islamists are afraid of these ideas because it will help society to be free, and they don’t want society to be free.”

“We have to find a way and tools, how to bring together young people from Iraq and Israel so that they will understand each other so that they will be not hostages of the ideas of old people and old generations.”

What is your current position in Iraqi politics?

“I am a proud founder and member of the Iraqi Nation Party. I didn’t run in the last elections. When the State Department reached out to us and asked why we are not taking a part in the elections, we said that we would be not part of Qasem Soleimani’s game. We will not be tools in the hands of Soleimani.”

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