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Why Netanyahu’s support could hurt Kurdistan

It is astonishing that Israel, which routinely denies rights and freedoms to Palestinians, is rooting for Iraqi Kurds' independence

Gulf News

As developments related to the Iraqi Kurdish referendum were making headlines in the past few weeks, one statement in particular stood out.

Israel is supporting the Kurds in their efforts to gain independence.

I am not going to discuss the Kurdish move, its motives or goals here.

The reaction and positions of political leaders from around the world — all of whom have advised the Kurds to postpone the referendum because holding it now will carry unnecessary consequences — is not my focus either.

My focus, rather, is on the reaction of the only government in the region that has come out with a public support for the referendum — Israel.

It is astonishing that while it is involved in a similar issue of people seeking to establish their independent state, Tel Aviv has the gall to suppress that voice but cheer-on the Kurds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said in a statement that “Israel supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state”.

'Second Israel'

Iraqi Vice-President Nouri Al Maliki responded without naming Netanyahu, saying: “We will not allow the creation of a second Israel.”

This is the second time that Netanyahu has voiced his support for Iraqi Kurds. Earlier, in 2014, he had said Iraqi Kurds deserved “political independence”.

It would be interesting to know why Israel is not practising what it preaches.

Should it not look nearer than at northern Iraq?

The distance between Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Ramallah is merely 65km, while the distance between Tel Aviv and Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is approximately 1,300km.

If Israel thinks it is helping the Kurds with such statements, surely, it is wrong.

On the contrary, it will only hurt the Kurds and their efforts.

Palestinian question

Israel, in the eyes of the vast majority of Arabs, is still the foe.

In order to have normal relations with Arabs, Israel needs to solve the Palestinian question based on the United Nations Security Council resolutions and the two-state solution.

To add insult to injury, Netanyahu referred to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) as a terrorist group in his recent statement.

His relations with Turkey are good enough not to anger Ankara. But it seems he doesn’t mind angering Baghdad or the Arabs.

Kurds had been trying to have an independent state since the end of the First World War, when Britain and France divided the Middle East in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The then-United Kingdom foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, had sent a letter in 1917 to Lord Walter Rothschild, the British Jewish leader, announcing the support for the establishment of a “national home” for the Jews in Palestine.

One of the repeated Israeli statements is that Palestine is a “land with no people” for “people with no land”.

Persecution 

However, Palestinians did exist and in millions for a very long time in “historical Palestine”.

There are also millions in diaspora after Israel forced them out of their homes and villages in the Arab-Israel wars during the past century.

Tens of UN resolutions to solve the Palestinian cause were issued, only to end up in UN archives and drawers!

Palestinians are persecuted, displaced, humiliated and agonised by Israel, and Israel is blaming them for not doing enough to resume the peace talks, questioning their right to have their own independent state.

Though Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan have long-established relations, Netanyahu’s statement does not fit under “supporting my friend”.

It looks more like a strategic thinking that will ultimately give Israel a strategic base.

If the Iraqi Kurds opt to establish their independent state, Israel will have a foothold in northern Iraq and an eye on Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

Netanyahu’s statement reminds me of a phrase we always hear before taking a flight.

It says: “put your oxygen mask on before helping others”.

Israel needs to help itself and its nearby Palestinian neighbours, before extending its support to others.

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