Netanyahu: Israel Supports the Establishment of an Independent Kurdistan

Netanyahu says that while Israel sees the Kurdish guerillas PKK as a terrorist organization, 'it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state'

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri at the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tuesday September 12, 2017.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri at the Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Tuesday September 12, 2017. Erica Canepa/Bloomberg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday that Israel supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state.

Netanyahu's comments come on the heels a speech given a few days ago by former IDF deputy chief, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan in a Washington conference, in which he expressed support for Kurdish independence and said 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."

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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.

"Israel opposed the PKK and sees it as terror group, as opposed to Turkey that supports the terror organization Hamas," Netanyahu said in the statement. "While Israel opposes terrorism as a whole, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state."

Netanyahu has voiced support for Kurdish independence in the past. In June 2004, at a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) he said the Kurds deserve their own state. However, senior Israeli officials said on Tuesday that Netanyahu's comments reflect the official Israeli policy on the matter in light of the possible referendum.  

A number of senior Israeli officials, including the late President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have in the past years expressed support for Kurdish independence. A few days ago Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said during a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya that "Israel and countries of the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan. I think that the time has come for the U.S. to support the process."