ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated Israel’s support for the people of Kurdistan and said his country would continue to be a friend of the Kurds.
“Well, needless to say, Israel has been friendly and a sympathizer of the Kurdish situation for many, many years,” Olmert told Kurdistan 24 during a Jerusalem Post Conference in New York over the weekend.
“I had the privilege of meeting with top Kurdish leaders when I was Prime Minister,” he said, “and I hope that these relations will continue and the support of Israel will continue for the Kurdish needs and aspirations.”
Olmert also warned of Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and its support for terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
“The situation in the Middle East is shaky, and this is largely because of the attempts made by Iran to penetrate and cooperate together with Hezbollah and the continued terrorist operations of Hamas,” Olmert explained.
Tehran is closely aligned with Damascus. It views the Syrian regime’s continued rule as vital to its regional ambitions, and it has supported President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s seven-year long civil war, just as it supported Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, before him.
Indeed, it was an Iranian-Syrian combination that drove Israel out of Lebanon, following Israel’s 1982 invasion of that country, as it aimed to expel the PLO from Beirut.
Israel succeeded in that objective, but a new terrorist threat then emerged in the form of the militant Shi’ite organization, Hezbollah, which began as an Iranian-Syrian proxy force and presently wields very considerable influence in Lebanon.
Now, Israel is determined to eliminate Iran’s military presence in Syria and has conducted at least five strikes against Iranian positions since September.
Olmert warned that if the US pulled out of Syria, a scenario President Donald Trump has repeatedly raised in recent weeks, it would weaken “the possible influence of the more moderate forces in this area.”
The former Israeli Prime Minister noted that without America’s presence in Syria, “the cornerstone of any future opposition to the penetration of Iran is largely dependent on the state of Israel.”
“We will stop the terrorists, and we will not allow any foreign force to take over Syria in a way that may endanger the stability of the region,” Olmert affirmed, adding that Israel had been doing so “for many years.”
Olmert served as Israel’s 12th Prime Minister, from 2006 to 2009. Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded him on March 31, 2009.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie