TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a delegation of Republican congressmen that he supports the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in parts of Iraq.
According to a report published in the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu told a group of 33 congressmen last Thursday that he has a “positive attitude” toward the notion of a Kurdish state in predominantly Kurdish areas of Iraq, and called the Kurds a “brave, pro-Western people who share our values.”
Netanyahu has made few comments on the Kurdish issue, a highly charged issue both in regards to the traditional U.S. position, which always supported keeping Iraq as a united state despite the different demographic groups making up its population, and also from the perspective of Israel’s fraught relations with Turkey, a country which vehemently opposes the establishment of a Kurdish state because of the sizeable Kurdish minority within its own borders.
The last time Netanyahu made comments about the Kurdish aspirations for independence was in June 2014, when he said at a speech in Tel Aviv that Israel “should support the Kurdish aspirations for independence, they deserve it.”
The prime minister’s comments last week to U.S. congressmen came during a survey of regional issues and amid concerns in the Israeli government that Iran’s influence in the region is increasing.
Israel is also concerned that a recent ceasefire agreement in Syria, supported by both the U.S. and Russia, does not address the Iranian issue and leaves space for Iran to fill in the power vacuum in Syria.