Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday evening that Israel supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq, where autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan is located today.
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"We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it," Netanyahu said in his speech at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.
A few days earlier, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman raised the issue in a closed meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. However, Netanyahu's public endorsement was clearer.
Peres told Obama he believes Iraq will not survive as a unified state without "massive military intervention," a course he doesn't recommend, adding that the Kurds have established a de-facto independent democracy of their own, backed by Turkey. In his talk with Kerry, Lieberman said that "Iraq is collapsing before our eyes, and the establishment of an independent Kurdish state is a done deal."
Israel has been maintaining a discrete relationship with the Iraqi Kurds for years. Netanyahu's statements regarding the Kurdish issue were made in the course of his discussion of changes in the region, and the opportunities Israel has for new alliances in the Mideast.
"Historic changes are occurring throughout our region, with important ramifications for both Israeli and world security. The Sykes-Picot agreement which shaped the borders of our region almost 100 years ago has reached its end," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu mentioned that Israel has been backing international efforts to strengthen Jordan, against the background of the Iraqi turmoil. "Jordan is a stable, moderate state with a strong army, that knows how to defend itself, and for that reason it's fitting for interntational efforts to focus there. The same goes for the Kurds, a warrior people, that has proven their commitment to moderate politics, and are worthy of an independent state," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said recent events in Iraq proved he was right to demand that the IDF remain deployed along the Jordan River in any peace agreement with the Palestinians.
"Who knows what tomorrow will bring?" he said. "You have to stop the wave of terror at the Jordan, not at the edges of Tel Aviv."
Under any peace agreement in the near future, circumstances require that the IDF continue its operations in the West Bank to ensure Israel's security and the non-militarization of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu continued.
"Any arrangement will include Palestinian political and economic control alongside Israeli security control," he said. "There have been American forces in Germany for decades and they haven't interfered with German sovereignty. Same thing with Korea."
The prime minister stressed that in any future agreement, Israel will need to have security control over the Jordan Valley for a very long time.
"This is the practical basis for the two-state idea to which I remain committed," said Netanyahu. "In Judea and Samaria there is no power that can guarantee Israel's security other than the IDF. It's been proven in Iraq that you can't depend on local forces that have been trained by the West to stop terror."
Addressing the nuclear talks set to resume on Wednesday, Netanyahu warned the world powers against a deal with Iran that would allow it to continue enriching uranium and gain the ability to break out to weapons capability in a short time.
"We hear with concern about the readiness of the six world powers to reduce Iran's breakout time from years to one year," Netanyahu said. "If thousands of centrifuges remain mothballed in Iran, the breakout time will be reduced to months or a few weeks."