Following the announcement of the U.S. drawdown in Syria, Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the Turkish invasion and declared a willingness to extend nonmilitary aid to the Syrian Kurds. To understand why, writes Kassy Dillon, one must look to the 20th-century history of cooperation between the Jewish state and the Middle East’s largest stateless people:
Ties between Israel and the Kurds first started in the 1960s when the Kurds helped smuggle the remaining Jews out of Iraq after decades of rising anti-Semitism, which included pogroms, public executions, and discriminatory laws. Meanwhile, . . . after hearing of severe poverty the Kurdish people were facing, Golda Meir, then foreign minister, allocated the Kurds $100,000 in 1963.
Soon after, the humanitarian aid expanded into military assistance for training, arms, and ammunition, and eventually anti-aircraft weaponry. In 1980, Prime Minister Menachem Begin admitted that the Israelis assisted the Kurds during their uprising against the Iraqis between 1965 and 1975.
In 2017, Israel was the only country publicly to announce its support for Kurdish independence after the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq announced its intentions to hold a referendum for independence. At Kurdish independence rallies, Israeli flags were waved, leading to unanimous censure from the Iraqi parliament. Israel and the Iraqi Kurds have also enjoyed economic cooperation in recent years. Israel accepted a large Kurdish oil shipment in June of 2014, at the peak of the Kurdish struggle against Islamic State.