Though the far-left has long believed that Israel pushed the U.S. into war in Iraq, the fact is that Israel has kept a safe (albeit supportive) distance from American policy there–until now. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly endorsed Kurdish independence in a speech in Tel Aviv on Sunday–even as Secretary of State John Kerry urged Kurds not to break away in a visit to the autonomous Kurish region of northeast Iraq.
Netanyahu praised the Kurds as “a warrior nation that is politically moderate, has proven they can be politically committed, and is worthy of statehood,” the Jerusalem Post reports. Israel is also thought to have been helping the Kurds covertly for years. The Netanyahu government likely sees an independent Kurdistan as a strategic bulwark against the rampaging Sunni extremists of ISIS and the Shia extremists of Iran and its terror groups.
In the past, explicit support for Kurdish independence–anywhere–would have been unthinkable for Israel due to its strong relations with Turkey, which opposes Kurdish aspirations. However, Israel’s alliance with Turkey has frayed as Turkey’s Islamist government has taken a harsh anti-Israel line, which has included sponsoring terror groups, such as the one that staged the flotilla confrontation off the coast of Gaza in the spring of 2010.
Netanyahu’s open defiance of U.S. policy on Iraq is also partly the result of worsening relations with the Obama administration. On Monday, the Obama irked Israelis yet again by insisting that both sides show “restraint” in the wake of the murder of three Jewish boys by Palestinian terrorists. Yet Netanyahu’s remarks may also simply reflect the emerging reality in the Middle East–a reality from which the White House is increasingly detached.