Creating new perspectives since 2009

Why does Israel support the establishment of a Kurdish state?

October 4, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Kurdish independence supporters take to the streets waving Israeli flags after Israel stated its support for Kurdish independence. [Hamit Hüseyin/Anadolu Agency]

The Palestinian cause occupies a major focus point in the context of the debate occurring in the Israeli occupation state regarding the independence of the Kurdish region in Iraq. Those following this debate will easily see that the reasons why many of those opposed to Israel taking a public stand in favour of Kurdish independence is their fear that this will be used by those advocating for a Palestinian state. Their fears are based on the fact that a Palestinian state will lead to the dismantlement of the “Jewish national state” in historical Palestine, which is what will happen to a national state like Iraq in the event of the establishment of a Kurdish state. If I had more room in this article, I would cite a number of statements and quotes in this regard.

However, supporters of the independence of the Kurdish region are not concerned with this fear. Among other things, these supporters stress that in addition to the economic matters linked to the oil Israel gets from the Kurds in Iraq, according to foreign media reports, Israel also has important security and intelligence considerations and benefits from its close public relations with Kurdistan. Some of these supporters attributed the fears voiced by the Arabs and others of the establishment of a Kurdish state to their expectations of the establishment of an Israeli colony.

Read: Kurdish independence will see Iraq disintegrate; it’s Israel’s dream scenario

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [MathKnight/Flickr]

The “Kurdish card” is not new to the regional policy adopted by Israel. It began to use this card in the context of the so-called “third-circle countries strategy” adopted by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, in the 1950s and 1960s. This strategy was based on the idea of allying with countries in the Middle East which share interests, mainly security interests, with Israel, but do not share any borders with it. These interests allowed Israel to cooperate with these countries in an attempt to weaken or curb the military intentions of neighbouring countries, like the alliance with Iran’s Shah, the alliance with Turkey, helping the Kurds, etc.

Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly adopted the strategy more than three years ago at a seminar held by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University titled “In the Absence of Progress toward a Final Status Agreement: Options for Israel”, of course referring to the final state’s agreement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the time, Netanyahu mentioned that one of the current pillars of Israeli policy must be the establishment of limited regional cooperation between Israel and Arab states, which he described as moderate, under the pretext of curbing jihadist Islamists. Netanyahu reiterated his desire to cooperate with the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and admitted publically, for the first time, that Israel was willing to provide Jordan with military support, He also admitted that Israel supported Kurdistan’s independence aspirations and considered Egypt an important partner in this camp.

Read more: Post-referendum Iraq… is there enough space in the cemeteries for our victims?

The question now remains: How will Israel face the contradiction between its support for a Kurdish state and its opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state even within the 1967 borders? One of Netanyahu’s most prominent spokesmen stated, in this regard, that unlike the Kurds, who are considered an ancient nation that has been living for many years in its territory, Zionism led to the invention of the Palestinian people, and that their national identity is only based on the denial of Zionism and the Jewish state. At the same time, while this spokesman considers the establishment of a Kurdish state a contribution to regional stability, the emergence of a Palestinian state would be tantamount to harming the security of the occupation state.

Of course, I believe that by this spokesman stressing that a solution to the Palestinian issue that is based on what Netanyahu and the Israeli right wing promotes, i.e. “more than autonomy and less than a full sovereign state” in the 1967 territories, must be found, he draws a parallel between the Israeli right-wing and left-wing approaches to this issue. At the same time, however, he avoided saying that this goal has been and still remains the goal of the trajectory that has followed the left-wing since the Oslo Accords.

This article first appeared in Arabic on Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 4 October 2017

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.