Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his country's support for the establishment of a state for the people of Kurdistan on Tuesday, making him the first head of state to support a "legitimate" process for Kurdistan's independence.
"While Israel rejects terror in any form, it supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own," read a statement from the PM's office late on Tuesday.
Heads of state have been hesitant to express full support for the Kurdish bids for independence.
Netanyahu also made clear that he was not referring to the efforts by the PKK to establish statehood in Turkey.
"Israel rejects the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and considers it a terrorist organization, as opposed to Turkey, which supports the terror organization Hamas," he added.
The PKK is a banned political party in Turkey that has been fighting a three-plus decades long guerilla war against the Turkish government.
Officials in the Kurdistan Region have clearly expressed that their independence referendum on September 25 is only regarding Erbil's separation from Baghdad, and not a declaration of independence in all four parts of Kurdistan - Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Netanyahu's comments came a day after Israel's outspoken Justice Minister expressed support for the Kurdistan Region's quest for independence.
"Israel and countries of the West have a major interest in the establishment of the state of Kurdistan." Shaked had said. "I think that the time has come for the US to support the process."
On Thursday, Former Israel Defense Forces deputy chief, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan during a panel the the Washington Institute for Near East Policy expressed his belief that the establishment of a "unified Kurdish entity" in the region is not a bad thing and that he doesn't view the PKK as a "terrorist" organization.
"From my personal point of view the PKK is not a terrorist organization, that's how I see it," Golan said. "When you look at Iran in the east, when you look at the instability in the region, a stable and unified Kurdish entity in the middle of this swamp, is not a bad idea."
The former official also added that Israel is not capable of fighting Iran by itself.
“And while we can achieve decisive victory over Hezbollah… and while we can defeat any Shia militia in Syria … we cannot fight Iran alone,” he said.
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.
Iraq has called the vote unconstitutional and on Tuesday its parliament voted against the referendum allowing Baghdad to use military force against the Kurdistan Region. Kurdish MPs boycotted the vote in the parliament dominated by the Shiite National Alliance.
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.
Updated at 8:30 a.m. to add Maj. Gen. Yair Golan's comments.