15:59 GMT +320 April 2019
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    Female fighters from the Kurdish People Protection Unit (YPG) take a break on the front line in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on September 4, 2015.

    This Country Wants Kurds to Have Their Own State and It is Not Shy About It

    © AFP 2019 / Delil Souleiman
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    In a region where the Kurds have few allies, one country stands out: high-ranking Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, have voiced their support for an independent Kurdish state, an idea that the countries where the Kurds live – Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – strongly oppose.

    Surprising as it may seem, Israel has long promoted cordial relations with the Kurds, particularly the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG).

    "Kurdish leaders believe that Israel can be their best lobby in the West for the project of a Kurdish state," Ofra Bengio, an expert on the Kurds, wrote for the American Interest. The Israelis are also rumored to have provided weapons and training to the KRG.

    In addition, Israel helped the KRG by purchasing Kurdish oil in 2015 at a time when Baghdad threatened to sue anyone, who would trade with the Kurds. Security concerns should also be taken into account. After all, Israel's neighbors are not the biggest fans of the Jewish state.

    Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag during the celebration of Flag Day in the northern city of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq
    © AFP 2019 / SAFIN HAMED
    Iraqi Kurdish girls carry a Kurdistan flag during the celebration of Flag Day in the northern city of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq

    "The tectonic changes that have taken place in Iraq and Syria, and Kurdish feats on the battleground, have proven that the Kurds are a formidable barrier against dangerous anti-Israeli forces emanating from both Sunni and Shi'a Islamist radicals," the analyst observed.

    Interestingly, the Kurds want to keep the relations with Israel afloat, yet they don't want to make it public. For its part, Israel does not make a secret of the fact that it is supporting the Kurdish cause.

    The Minister of Justice of the Jewish State, Ayelet Shaked, has come out flat for creation of a Kurdish state that is to weaken Iran and Turkey.
    © AP Photo / Gali Tibbon
    The Minister of Justice of the Jewish State, Ayelet Shaked, has come out flat for creation of a Kurdish state that is to weaken Iran and Turkey.

    "We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel," Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in late January. She also called the Kurds "a partner for the Israeli people."

    This is not an isolated comment from an Israeli official. But in a region as complicated as the Middle East, one could hardly blame the Kurdish politicians for being careful.

    "Being a state in embryo surrounded by Arab and Muslim countries makes the KRG very cautious about publicizing anything that has to do with Israel," the analyst explained. "This is especially true at this critical time, when it is looking for regional support for its project of establishing a Kurdish state, or short of that trying to preempt negative reactions to it."

    Ofra Bengio believes that the friendship between Israel and at least the Iraqi Kurds will only grow closer in the years to come. With time, the Jewish state could establish friendly relations with other major Kurdish groups in the region, she added.

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    Tags:
    Middle East, Kurds, politics, independence, cooperation, Ayelet Shaked, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel, Kurdistan
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