Netanyahu Denies Israeli Role in Kurdish Referendum After Erdogan Claims Mossad Pulled Strings

In jab at Erdogan, Netanyahu says 'those who support Hamas' tend to see the Mossad's involvement where it suits them

A Kurdish man holds an Israeli and Kurdish flag during a rally in Erbil, Iraq September 16, 2017
A Kurdish man holds an Israeli and Kurdish flag during a rally in Erbil, Iraq September 16, 2017 AZAD LASHKARI/REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel was not involved in the Kurdish referendum, hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed the Mossad interfered in the September 25 independence vote.

"Israel played no part in the Turkish referendum, aside from the natural, deep and long-standing sympathy the Jewish people have for the Kurdish people and their aspirations," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly government meeting. In an apparent jab at Erdogan, he said he understands why "those who support Hamas tend to see the Mossad" where it suits them.

>> Israel endorsed Kurdish independence. Saladin would have been proud >>

Netanyahu was the only leader to endorse an independent Kurdistan. Ahead of the independence vote, Netanyahu said that Israel "supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve a state of their own."

Speaking in eastern Turkey on Saturday, Erdogan said that the fact Israeli flags were waved during events celebrating the "yes" vote proves Israel's involvement. AFP quoted Erdogan as saying that "this shows one thing, that this administration [the Kurdish leadership in northern Iraq] has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together."

With 92 percent voting "yes," Iraq's Kurds overwhelmingly backed independence in Monday's referendum, defying neighboring countries which fear the vote could fuel Kurdish separatism within their own borders and lead to fresh conflict.

The powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah struck a similar tone on Saturday, with Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed group, describing the referendum as part of a U.S.-Israeli plot to carve up the region.