Israel for half a century
later deputy head of the Mossad, travelled on a non-Israeli passport to Kurdistan to appraise the situation. He was followed by Dov Tamari, a commando unit leader, who explored the idea of a permanent IDF training unit in the Kurdish mountains. This led to periodic six month stints for IDF personnel who trained peshmerga officers in the Marvad programme. Following the Six Day war, captured Soviet arms made their way to Kurdistan.
Today there is an open, but unofficial Israeli presence in Kurdistan. Motorola, Magalcom and Bezeq are all there. There is investment in oil exploration. Israelis — many of Kurdish origin — visit cities such as Erbil by travelling via Amman.
The Kurds’call for independence has met with a hostile reception in Whitehall and from the White House. Boris Johnson described it as a distraction from more pressing priorities. The US does not wish to antagonise Ankara and weaken Turkish links to Nato. Even Netanyahu is careful with his words when the subject of Kurds in Turkey is invoked. Yet as the Jews understood in 1948, windows of opportunity occur very rarely.
When asked in the Knesset in 1975 why Israel had acted so positively in support of the Kurds, Yitzhak Rabin instinctively replied: “Because we are Jews!” Many in this country will undoubtedly identify with that sentiment.
Colin Shindler’s latest book, The Hebrew Republic: Israel’s Return to History, is published by Rowman and Littlefield
Israel’s support for the Kurds began under Golda Meir’s premiership