Kurds and Israelis in Israel show their support for Kurdistan and Peshmerga. Photo: Ivan Sindy
By Lazar Berman
JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s Kurds are grinning with satisfaction, following statements by Israeli leaders in support of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
“The National Organization of the Jews of Kurdistan blesses the Kurdish people with independence, and sees a shared fate between the Kurds and the state of Israel, the people of Israel and especially the Kurdish Jewish community,” said the chairman of the organization, Yehuda Ben Yosef,” an educator and politician in Jerusalem.
He said the organization, “prays for Greater Kurdistan.”
After decades of quiet cooperation between the Jewish state and Kurds in Iraq, Israeli leaders have come out in succession in support of full Kurdish independence.
First, Israeli President Shimon Peres told reporters in Washington on Wednesday what he had said to US President Barack Obama: “The Kurds have created their own de facto state, which is democratic. One of the signs of democracy is the granting of equality to women”
The next day, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris: “Iraq is breaking up before our eyes and it would appear that the creation of an independent Kurdish state is a foregone conclusion.”
Then, on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the most explicit endorsement yet to Kurdish statehood. Speaking at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Netanyahu said: “We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it.”
He also called the Kurds “a nation of warriors, that have proven their commitment to political moderation, and they’re worthy of their own political independence.”
“Our community is happy and proud, of course,” gushed Margarit Lavron, an Israeli Kurd. “We are praying that Kurdistan finally gets its independence, and those in our government support and help,” she told Rudaw. “Well done Bibi (Netanyahu) and Peres, who support and help Kurdistan.”
In all likelihood the statements by Israeli leaders were planned at the highest levels, as the prospects of Iraq remaining unified disappeared under an advance by jihadi-led insurgents who already have captured Iraq’s largest province and second-largest city.
In addition, given how sensitive Israeli leaders have been to requests by Kurdish leaders to keep their decades-long relationship quiet, the statements must have been coordinated with leaders of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.
But Netanyahu’s spokesman on Monday declined to comment on the issue, telling Rudaw that he had nothing to add to the prime minister’s statement.
Miri Harambam expressed hope that Kurdish independence would allow her community to go back for a visit. “We thank and appreciate the support of the prime minister and president in recognizing Kurdish sovereignty. This gives us strength, and all our community hopes that we will finally be able to fulfill our dream of visiting Kurdistan.”
Avi Shapira said that, “As a descendant of Kurdish immigrants, I support the idea of establishing an independent, democratic, Kurdish state.”
Arie Amedy, meanwhile, suggested it was the Iraqi Kurds’ different outlook that had allowed them to arrive at the doorstep of independence: “Through the generations, the Kurdish people… wanted simple, quiet lives, despite everything around them. Most of their effort went into building, work, and simplicity, happy family lives. If it had this, it wouldn’t demand independence. We live in a jungle, where the weak are eaten, and the Kurdish nation rose up and organized itself… My prayer is that we will see the birth of Kurdistan with our own eyes.”
Emanuela Siyar Barzani, who recently organized a small demonstration in Israel in support of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, was especially excited. “For 12 years, I have been active in raising awareness about Kurdistan in Israel, and I am happy we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I hope that we’ll see a Kurdish embassy in Israel, and across the entire world…I am sending my blessing to the Kurdish nation, that they remain strong, and I hope that this difficult time of war in Iraq will bring quiet and peace to the Kurdish nation and to the neighboring nations,” Barzani said.