Published on Feb 25, 2018 by TheJerusalemCenter YouTube channel – Dore Gold told the Valdai conference in Moscow on February 19, 2018:
“I’ve been called to talk about the Kurdish issue, and many times I’m uncomfortable when I get advice from other players in the region, or even players out of the region, about how Israel should solve its problems. So I’m now going to lecture you about how the Kurds should solve their problems? The best I can do is perhaps share with you some Israeli perspectives that are really my perspectives on how we view this entire question. Of course, I think you made a very important point. The Kurds may be spread over a number of Middle Eastern countries – 40 million people – but their experience in each country is very different, and that will undoubtedly affect what kind of solutions will be chosen.
“There’s a lot of identification in Israel with the Kurdish cause, for reasons I’ll explain, but I would say this: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the Kurds are deserving of self-government, and if I can give you some friendly advice, it is always tempting when you’re frustrated to go the route of unilateralism. But I will tell you this: The Palestinians would be making a huge mistake, and I don’t want to draw comparisons, if they go the unilateralist route instead of the negotiated route. A negotiated route to independence, as difficult as it is, is a far better course of action than doing it yourself. I also want to add something, because we have a neighbor who’s very much affected by this question. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Iraq. We don’t have diplomatic relations with Syria, but we have diplomatic relations with Turkey, and despite our political tensions with Turkey, which have surfaced and are very apparent from the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flotilla, up until recently, we oppose any threat to the territorial integrity of the Turkish Republic. So we may show certain sympathy with the cause of the Iraqi Kurds, but this is a stipulation which I think is important to voice.
“A second point that I want to make in the same context is that we view the PKK as a terrorist organization, which we oppose. It’s not surprising that the PKK has received assistance from Syria and from the Islamic Republic of Iran, both of which are adversaries of the State of Israel. Now, what’s the special identification with the Kurdish cause? I think the Kurdish quest for political independence began at the same time as the Jewish national movement, and both of them achieved international recognition. We had the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations mandate, but we both appear in the treaties after World War I, where an international community made commitments to Jewish self-government and to Kurdish self-government. In your case, yours was not fulfilled. I believe what also has created a great deal of identification in Israel with the Kurdish cause: You mentioned the Anfal operations in Iraq, when we saw a people struck by chemical weapons, like the attack in Halabja, which you say is your home city. That had a very strong impact on Israel, and a sense that the Kurds deserve a better future.
“When it comes to Syria, with its very large Kurdish population, we are aware what happened in Syria when the Syrian government decided to take away Syrian nationality from the Kurdish people in the north. So 120,000 Syrian Kurds were affected, and we have been very sympathetic with the fate, certainly of Sunni Arabs in Syria. Our involvement in Syria, to a large extent, for a long period of time has been confined to treating the Syrian wounded who come to the fence on the Golan Heights and seek access to our hospitals. Of course, the Syrian Kurdish operations have been mostly confined to areas far away from Israel, and of course the area of control is east of Euphrates River, although they have struggles for various enclaves, like Afrin.
“Let me close, since I’m surveying the Syrian situation, with one last point. I know in this conference we’re looking at different futures for different countries, but regardless of what happens in Syria, and regardless of what happens with the question of the Syrian Kurds, it’s important to stress that from the point of view of Israel, in the southern part of that area, the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”
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Amb. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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