Israeli Minister: Independent Kurdistan Would Benefit Israel and the West

Ayelet Shaked's comments come exactly two weeks before Kurdistan's planned independence referendum, which the U.S. and Russia fear will lead to regional destabilization

A man passes by a banner that reads "Yes for the independence of Kurdistan" in Kirkuk, Iraq, September 10, 2017.
A man passes by a banner that reads "Yes for the independence of Kurdistan" in Kirkuk, Iraq, September 10, 2017. AKO RASHEED/REUTERS

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told an international counter-terrorism conference on Monday that Israel supports Kurdish independence, "at least in the Iraqi part." The Kurdistan Regional Government, the semi-autonomous administration of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, intends to hold an independence referendum on September 25. 

Shaked, a keynote speaker at the conference that also invited U.S. President Donald Trump's ousted adviser Sebastian Gorka to speak, said, according to prepared remarks, "Israel and countries of the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan." She added, "I think that the time has come for the U.S. to support the process."

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The American administration, along with Russia, Turkey Iran, Iraq and Syria, have opposed the referendum out of fears that it would destabilize the region. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in the Kurdish capital Erbil two weeks ago, urging KRG President Masoud Barazani to postpone the referendum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also expressed similar support for the creation of a Kurdish state. Speaking to a delegation of 33 Republican members of the U.S. Congress last month, Netanyahu said that he had a "positive attitude" about an independent Kurdistan in parts of Iraq, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Three years ago, the prime minister publicly announced his support for an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. "We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it," Netanyahu said in a speech at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.

The Kurds, who live in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Jordan, are one of the world's largest stateless ethnic minorities.