(JNS.org) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially endorsed Kurdish statehood ahead of a controversial referendum held in the Kurdish region of Iraq in late September.
Israel “supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state,” Netanyahu said in a statement Tuesday night during a visit to Argentina.
Although Israel has official relations with just three Middle Eastern countries – Turkey, Jordan and Egypt – it has long had warm relations with Iraq’s Kurds, who are Sunni Muslim, making the official endorsement ahead of the Sept. 25 vote gives the measure added weight.
Israel’s position, however, clashes with that of the U.S. and Turkey, which both oppose the measure out of fear it could further destabilize the region. In particular, Turkey, which has long battled Kurdish insurgents within its own borders, fears the referendum could encourage independence for its Kurdish minority.
At the same time, the fragile relationship between Israel and Turkey could be strained over Israel’s support for Kurdish independence. The two countries restored relations last year after a six-year freeze following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.