Why Israel Went Out on a Limb to Support Kurdish Independence

Sept. 25 2017

Today the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will go to the polls to vote on whether to declare independence from Iraq. Last week, breaking ranks with the U.S., other Middle Eastern leaders, and much of the world, Benjamin Netanyahu publicly announced his support for such a move. In doing so, he not only expressed sympathy with the Kurds’ aspiration to create what their opponents have derisively termed a second Israel—a non-Arab, democratic oasis in the midst of the Middle East—but also affirmed the longstanding ties between Israel and Iraqi Kurds, not to mention a sense of kinship between the Jewish and Kurdish peoples. David Halbfinger writes:

A breakaway Kurdistan could prove valuable to Israel against Iran, which has oppressed its own Kurdish population. But given the interwoven history and shared emotion underlying [Netanyahu’s] statement, present-day geopolitics can seem almost beside the point. The Kurds and the Jews, it turns out, go way back. . . .

The first Jews in Kurdistan, tradition holds, were among the lost tribes of Israel, taken from their land in the 8th century BCE. They liked it there so much, [the local legend goes], that when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the Babylonians and let the Jews go back home, many chose instead to stick around. . . .

In the modern era, Kurdish Jews departed en masse for Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, leaving Kurdish civil society so bereft that some recall its leaders still lamenting the Jewish exodus decades later.

Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds—both minorities in an inhospitable region and ever in need of international allies— have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. . . . And while Kurdish leaders have not publicly embraced Israel in the run-up to the referendum, for fear of antagonizing the Arab world, the Israeli flag can routinely be seen at Kurdish rallies in [the regional capital of] Erbil and across Europe.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iraq, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Kurds


Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy