With Iraq collapsing into another Sunni-Shiite civil war, the Kurds are holding their own in the north of the country. -According to the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, “The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future.” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for one, agrees, and last week endorsed “Kurdish aspirations of independence.” Will the rest of his government, and the rest of Israel, join him on the sovereign Kurd bandwagon?
Israel already has a surprisingly close relationship with the Kurds. The IDF has reportedly helped the Kurds train defense forces of their own. The Kurds, evidently, see Israel as a model for their ambition to throw off the post-Ottoman imperial yoke and establish an independent state on their ancestral lands.
There are strong practical reasons for the Israelis and the Kurds to work with one another. Kurdistan would be a valuable ally against its neighbor Iran, plus whatever missile-wielding regimes end up taking over parts of Iraq and Syria. Kurdistan, for its part, will be threatened by Turkey, which fears losing control over its Kurd-heavy east. As Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan shifts Turkey toward Islamism, Israel has drawn closer to Greece and Cyprus; and Kurdistan, like Cyprus, has substantial natural resources that Israeli technology can help develop.
Of course the best reason for Israel to support Kurdish dreams of independence is moral rather than practical. The Kurds, like the Jews, deserve to control their fate and their homeland. Israel should recognize that, and when the time comes, recognize them. With July 4th on our minds, perhaps Washington should too.