Kurds Wary of Israel Boost for Independence

Diplomat Seeks To Keep Jewish State at Arm's Length

Independence Day? Kurdish fighter mans checkpoint on the edge of disputed city of Kirkuk.
getty images
Independence Day? Kurdish fighter mans checkpoint on the edge of disputed city of Kirkuk.

By Dan Williams

Published July 04, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

(Reuters) — A Kurdish diplomat has played down the significance of Israeli advocacy of independence for her people, saying it was not coordinated with the autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq and may be intended to served Israel’s interests.

While acknowledging that Israel had sway in Washington, which wants to prevent a break-up of sectarian war-torn Iraq, Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) envoy Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman suggested this was potentially counter-balanced by the hostility that perceived Israeli allies risked drawing in the Middle East.

“Israel has its friends and its enemies, so it can work both ways,” she told Reuters in a telephone interview from London, where she is based. “We are not coordinating with Israel. We are not responsible for statements made by other governments.”

Since last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for formalizing Kurdish sovereignty and two other senior Israeli officials, in meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, described a Kurdish state in northern Iraq as a welcome fait accompli.

Israeli experts saw in the Netanyahu government’s advocacy an attempt to build on discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds dating back to the 1960s in the face of shared Arab adversaries.

However, Abdul Rahman said such cooperation was in the past.

NO TIES NOW

“There was a period - a short period - decades ago when there were relations. But it stopped,” she said. “In terms of any covert relationship - that does not exist. In terms of a formal relationship with Israel - that does not exist.”

Abdul Rahman said the KRG’s foreign policy was that of Iraq, which remains technically at war with Israel. “Since the Iraqi government does not have relations with Israel, neither do we,” she added.

She would not be drawn on why Israel might be publicly differing with the United States on policy toward Iraqi Kurds.

“Generally speaking, governments and political leaders put the interests of their own country first. These are statements that Israeli leaders are making without any input from us,” Abdul Rahman said.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s strategic affairs and intelligence minister, said on Friday he knew of no communication between his government and the KRG about prospective Kurdish independence.

Speaking to Reuters after returning from talks in Washington this week, Steinitz said Israel had no intention of challenging U.S. policy in Iraq - though he doubted that it would succeed.

“We very much appreciate the American efforts, but the Iraqi situation is incomparably difficult and complex, even for the global power. Not every problem has a magic solution,” he said.

The Obama administration has not directly addressed Israel’s statements about Iraqi Kurdish independence. A U.S. diplomat in the region, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Israel’s position on the Kurds seemed to stem from it seeing them as a rare “pocket of stability” among menacing neighbors.

The KRG has seized on the Iraqi chaos to expand into oil-rich new territory but remains wary of declaring independence, fearful about possible backlash for fellow Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria among other concerns.

“Ultimately it is not even up to the Kurdish leadership if we go independent. It is up to the Kurdish people,” Abdul Rahman said, noting the call for a referendum on the matter by Masoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Of course we would want the world to welcome an independent Kurdistan, but we are realistic and know that for some it will be difficult to accept at first,” she said. “However, there are many who are sympathetic to the idea of independence.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.