Israeli General Yair Golan, Former IDF Deputy Chief, Says PKK Not a Terror Organization

Golan's remarks receive much attention in U.S., Turkey and Iraq due to upcoming Kurdistan independence referendum, PKK's history of terrorism against Turkish soldiers and civilians

Former IDF deputy chief Yair Golan.
Former IDF deputy chief Yair Golan. Moti Milrod

Former IDF deputy chief Maj. Gen. Yair Golan expressed support for Kurdish independence at a conference in Washington last week, saying that the Kurdish PKK fighting Turkey is not a terrorist organization.

"From my personal point of view the PKK is not a terrorist organization, that's how I see it," Golan said. "When you look at Iran in the east, when you look at the instability in the region, a stable and unified Kurdish entity in the middle of this swamp, is not a bad idea."

Golan's speech received a lot of media attention in Washington, Turkey and Iraq – both because the PKK has carried out thousands of terror attacks against Turkish soldiers and citizens over the years – and because of the intention of the government in Iraqi Kurdistan to hold a referendum on independence this month. The U.S. opposes the referendum and is pressuring the Kurdish leadership in Iraq to back down from the plan.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later walked back Golan's comments, saying on Tuesday that Israel supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, but considers the PKK a terrorist organization.

Golan, currently a military research fellow at The Washington Institute, caused a political storm before he left the army last May when he compared shifts in contemporary Israeli society to those that took place in pre-war Germany. In a speech given for Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016, Golan said: “If there’s something that frightens me about remembering the Holocaust, it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

Golan also said in March 2016 that he views Turkey as "a very problematic factor," as long as Turkey is ruled by a party with a strong Islamist orientation, by a ruler as adversarial as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and that as long as this is the situation - "we can expect problems and challenges."