Ayelet Shaked, Israel's justice minister, delivers a speech earlier in 2017. File photo: Gali Tibbon | AFP via Getty
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked expressed support for the Kurdistan Region’s aspirations for statehood on Monday going so far as to encourage the United States to “support the process”, just two weeks ahead of the independence referendum.
"Israel and countries of the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan." Shaked said, as quoted by Israel’s Haeertz newspaper, "I think that the time has come for the US to support the process."
Shaked delivered the keynote remarks at the major international counter-terrorism conference, IDC Herzliya, which brings together more than 1,000 top officials from the defense, intelligence, and police fields from more than 60 countries.
The Justice Minister said that Israel supports Kurdish independence “at least in the Iraqi part,” a reference to the four parts of Kurdistan also in Iran, Turkey, and Syria.
The United States has maintained that the timing of the referendum “is wrong,” citing the war against ISIS. Kurdish officials have insisted that the vote will go on and the Ministry of Peshmerga has repeatedly expressed that the referendum is a political matter that will not affect their ability to coordinate with Iraqi security forces in the war.
Shaked is not the first Israeli official to make positive remarks ahead of the September 25 referendum.
Most recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a “positive attitude” towards an independent Kurdistan state emerging out of northern Iraq, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post on August 13, when he spoke with a delegation of 33 US members of congress.
In a speech at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies in 2014 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it."
The Kurdistan Regional Government with 14 representation offices abroad, cannot have official relations with Israel because the Republic of Iraq does not recognize Israel as a state, but have enjoyed friendly and historical ties.
“It is time to help them,” Shaked told the Times of Israel in January 2016. She referred to the Kurds as “an ancient, democratic, peace-loving people that have never attacked any country.”