ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu met with 33 Republican congressmen on Thursday and expressed his support for the birth of a new Kurdish state in the Middle East.
In the meeting, Netanyahu told the delegation of US members of Congress that he supports the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq, a source who was in attendance told the Jerusalem Post.
This comes as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has scheduled a referendum on the Kurdistan Region's independence for Sep. 25, a decision for which senior Kurdish officials claim there is no turning back.
The source also mentioned that the Israeli Premier displayed his “positive attitude” toward an independent Kurdistan, saying the Kurds are a “brave, pro-Western people who share our values.”
Netanyahu’s support differs from the usual US administration's position, which supports a united Iraq, also known as the “one-Iraq” policy.
The Israeli official’s comments to the congressmen were made while he expressed his concerns regarding Iran’s expanding influence in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and elsewhere in the region.
Israel has been the only state to have publicly voiced its support for Kurdish statehood in northern Iraq. The public backing of the former toward an independent Kurdistan is likely facilitated by the absence of any political and diplomatic ties between Iraq and Israel.
In June 2014, Netanyahu recognized the Kurds as “a warrior nation,” one which deserved a country of its own.
Netanyahu is not the only Israeli official to express support for the Kurds in Iraq as others have also highlighted the cause.
Former Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had previously called upon the international community to help the Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
Last year, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stated, “We [the State of Israel] must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly toward Israel.”
The Kurds are “politically moderate, [have] proven they can be politically committed, and [are] worthy of statehood,” she added.
In a meeting with former US President Barack Obama in 2014, former President and Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres had advised the US to support the Kurds and the creation of a Kurdish state.
He had also praised the democratic values implemented in the Kurdistan Region compared to the rest of Iraq.
“The Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic,” Peres told Obama in 2014. “One of the signs of a democracy is the granting of equality to women.”
Former Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar stated, “Israel should recognize Kurdistan and try to persuade the US to welcome a state for the Kurds as well.”
He added the establishment of a Kurdish state would rely on the reaction from countries around the world following a referendum.
“We Jews, like the Kurds, are a minority in the Middle East,” Sa’ar added. “[Kurds] have proven themselves over decades to be a reliable strategic partner for us.”
Kurds are the largest stateless nation in the world, with over 40 million spread across four different countries and dispersed abroad. The creation of an independent Kurdistan has been a long-awaited dream of almost all Kurds worldwide.
The Kurds were promised a state of their own during the World War I but instead saw their territory carved up by colonial powers into parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran.
Editing by G.H. Renaud