Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday that three secret delegations of senior Iraqi officials have visited Israel in the past few months, indicating the groundwork is being laid for normalised relations between the historically hostile countries.
It is understood that the delegations were made up of 15 senior political and religious figures from both the Sunni and Shiite communities.
It was reported that the aim was “to build the infrastructure for future ties” between the two countries and for the delegates to go back to Iraq as “future ambassadors”. The report did not identify any members of the Iraqi delegations, nor did it specify with which Israeli officials they had held talks.
On their trip they made a visit to Yad Vashem (the National Holocaust Memorial Centre), met Israeli government officials and discussed Jewish-Iraqi history with academics.
Israel and Iraq remain in a formal state of war, with the two countries having a history of military confrontations. Iraq has never recognised Israel and was one of several Arab countries to declare war in 1948 upon Israel’s creation.
Iraq was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities outside Israel. Up to 130,000 Jewish Iraqis left the country in the 1950s to live in Israel.