In 2014 and months before rise of ISIS terrorist group in Iraq and seizure of vast swaths of the country, the Israeli leader maintained that the Kurds “deserve independence” and that independence of Kurdistan will pave the way for cooperation with the so-called moderate forces in the region.
The Israelis recently even added to their remarks of support to the forthcoming referendum on independence of the Kurdish region of Iraq that is set for September 25. What is the main drive behind the Israeli endorsement of the Kurds' plans to hold the divisive plebiscite?
The expected poll is set for holding while various international, regional, and internal parties have expressed strong opposition to it. Pressing forward with the plans means very possibly the move will spark a new and lasting crisis in the West Asia region. In fact, eruption of a Kurdish crisis while the crisis ignited by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria is nearly over on the strength of the fast advances of the two countries' national armies is strongly linked to the Israeli interests and Tel Aviv’s traditional foreign policy. The region's moving towards relative stability is not a desire of the Israeli decision makers who look forward to seeing the West Asia engaged in crisis in post-ISIS time which means further regional and international media and public opinion's distraction from the Palestinian cause. Tel Aviv knows it well that once the terrorism crisis is over, Palestine will return to the center of attention and restore its status as a regional priority and its developments will gain focus afresh, which means pressures on Tel Aviv will build anew.
Another reason why Tel Aviv encourages the Kurdish referendum of independence is putting strains on the regional rivals and enemies that each have their own Kurdish minorities and are facing these minorities' identity-related demands. If Kurdistan splits from Iraq and builds its statehood, Tel Aviv will find the ground prepared to offer backing to the separatist Kurds in Turkey, Iran, and Syria on the independent Kurdistan soil. And more, it will station spying and security facilities in the Kurdish state and right next to the borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the arch-foe of the Israeli regime in the region. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in a 2012 report told of Israeli-Kurdish intelligence cooperation, adding that the Kurdistan Regional Government signed contract with the Israeli security and communication firms to train Kurdish staff and provide the autonomous region with facilities.
Through their advocacy for an independent Kurdish state, the Israelis are looking forward to make a strategic regional ally that will to help, to some extent, break their long-standing geopolitical isolation. Sixty-nine years after emergence of the Israeli regime, only three countries of Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan officially recognize the Israeli regime in West Asia. Tel Aviv’s only option to deal with the challenge is seeking ways that allow it normalize relations with other regional countries. Boosting ties and building alliance with a newly-established state of Kurdistan is a crucial step and marks itself as part of the course towards regional normalization.
Another motivation making Tel Aviv resolved in pro-Kurdish independence agenda is the potential profits that can flow to the Israeli regime’s economy under an independent Kurdistan. Kurdistan has rich energy resources, beside its huge consumer market. While the Iraqi forces since 2014 have been busy fighting ISIS terrorists, unofficial reports emerged that Iraqi Kurdistan Region's official exported oil and gas to the Israeli regime.
The Reuters news agency reported on June 29, 2014– the time ISIS launched an offensive to seize control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city– that the Israelis had established contacts with the Kurdistan officials to discuss buying oil from the autonomous region. The report added that first Israeli tanker at the time docked in Ashkelon port in the Mediterranean carrying the first cargo of oil provided by the Kurdish region’s government. Other reports noted that Israeli-Kurdish dealing in non-oil sector had started years before. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs also in 2012 unveiled the details of the Israeli firms' partnership in Erbil International Airport expansion project.
Therefore, in a time that the Israelis cannot get a toehold and take economic and political advantages in a united Iraq, independence of Kurdistan will realize their economic and political interests, beside improving their regional position by providing them with a new ally. This is the strongest reason why while the global and regional sides voice opposition to the Kurdish referendum, Tel Aviv leaders keenly maintain the sole pro-division voice.