Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed public support this week for an independent Kurdish state as part of a “bookends doctrine” he speaks about privately, whereby an independent Kurdistan in northeastern Iraq and a strong Jordan to the west serve to contain the Shi’ite and Sunni extremists operating in Iraq and Syria.
Though Netanyahu’s statement in support of an independent Kurdistan in Iraq was the first time he or any senior Israeli official has made such comments publicly, The Jerusalem Post has learned that the prime minister has for months been urging world leaders to strengthen and support the Kurds and the Jordanians, who are both pro-Western and moderate, as a way of preventing the chaos inside Syria and Iraq from spreading elsewhere. He argues in private meetings that the Jordanians and Kurds are both forces for regional stability, not anarchy.
On Thursday, Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, asked the region’s parliament to begin preparations for a referendum on statehood.
According to Netanyahu’s doctrine, one way of containing the Sunni and Shi’ite Islamic extremists slugging it out in Syria and Iraq is through the strengthening of countervailing forces. His support for an independent Kurdistan in northeastern Iraq is at odds with US policy, which is to keep Iraq united.
In a speech earlier in the week, Netanyahu said explicitly that it was necessary to limit the damage extremist Islamic elements could cause Israel or other states in the region, and that it was necessary for Israel to support international efforts to strengthen Jordan and to support the Kurdish aspirations for independence.
Jordan, Netanyahu continued, is a stable, moderate country with a strong army that knows how to defend itself, and precisely for that reason is worthy of international efforts to support it.
The same is true of the Kurds, he said, characterizing them as a “fighting nation that is politically moderate, has proven they can be politically committed, and is worthy of statehood.”
In words that dovetailed with this doctrine, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, during a visit to Berlin earlier this week, said that Jordan’s stability is one of Israel’s vital national security interests, and that Jerusalem would do everything to preserve that stability. This is a sentiment Netanyahu has articulated numerous times over the past months to a wide range of foreign leaders and visitors.