Citing the “collapse” of Iraq amid the ISIS insurgency and sectarian violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed the de-facto independence of Iraqi Kurds. Netanyahu has also called to support the “Kurdish aspiration for independence.”
The hawkish Israeli leader said on Sunday that Kurds are
“fighting people that has proved its political commitment,
political moderation, and deserves political independence,”
Speaking to Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank, Netanyahu described the situation in Iraq and the Middle East in general as a “collapse,” due to strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Amid the recent insurgency of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) militants, Kurds have seized the opportunity to bring a long-sought independent state of Kurdistan closer to reality. Kurdish Peshmerga armed forces have been guarding their provincial borders from ISIS, but also seized the contested Iraqi city of Kirkuk, proclaiming it part of their territory.
Now, in an apparent clash against the international community's
support of a united Iraq, the Israeli leader has called to back
the de-facto independence of Kurds.
“We should...support the Kurdish aspiration for independence,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
Netanyahu’s words followed similar statements by senior Israeli officials. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday told US Secretary of State John Kerry that he believes “the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion,” citing Iraq’s “breaking up.” Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres told US President Barack Obama that “the Kurds have, de facto, created their own state, which is democratic.”
The 40 million-strong Kurdish population has historically been scattered between northern Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and western Iran – and has been denied independence by each of those countries. Kurds have had the broadest autonomy in Iraq, ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Iraq is the only country that has accepted the Kurdish language as official. Turkey and Syria have restricted its use.
Netanyahu on Sunday also officially confirmed what was reported
in Israeli media earlier this year, in regards to sustained
military presence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In a policy speech Sunday night, Netanyahu said that there would have to be a long-term presence of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) throughout the West Bank, even after any future deal with the Palestinians, AP reported.
The Israeli government’s position on the issue comes in sharp contrast to that of the international community, which has been calling for IDF’s withdrawal from the West Bank to make way for an independent Palestinian state.