And why Israel supports the ambitious—if unlikely—push for statehood
Kurdish Peshmerga forces raise the Kurdish flag at a checkpoint on the road leading from Kirkuk to northern Iraqi city of Tikrit on June 30, 2014. (MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
The president of the Kurdish Regional Government Massoud Barzani announced today that he intends to call for a referendum on independence within the next few months. And if the Kurds do elect to break free of the central government in Baghdad, they’ll have at least one regional actor eager to acknowledge them as an independent state—Israel.
“They are a warrior nation, that is politically moderate,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the Kurds in a speech Sunday. They are “worthy of statehood,” Netanyahu continued. “We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it.”
However, as the pioneers of Zionism knew very well, whether a people deserves a state is a very different question than whether or not they are able to attain one. The Kurds are indeed a warrior nation, and likely capable of defending the borders of a prospective state. The problem, however, is in getting to the point where you can draw borders, which has little to do with the right to self-determination, or even material wealth, which the potentially oil-rich Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, may soon have in abundance. Rather, it’s about geopolitics and the disposition of larger, more powerful states. And at this point it seems that besides Israel, none of the regional and international players involved—above all, Turkey, Iran, and the United States—have any interest in promoting Kurdish statehood. (more…)