‘Israel definitely backs the Kurds’: Jacques Neriah

Interviewed by Mohammed Hussein*:

Dr. Jacques Neriah

Dr. Jacques Neriah

Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. He has written some articles about the Kurdish issue, and his recent one was about Kurdish fighting in Syria.

MH: Why there is no formal relationship between Israel and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and what is the possibility of this relationship?

JN: There is no formal relation between Israel and Kurdistan because Kurdistan is not considered to be independent and right now the Iraqi sovereignty prevails. Since we are at war with Iraq from 1948, you can imagine why we do not have diplomatic relations with Kurdistan. However, on the unofficial level you must know of ongoing relations that have taken place for almost fifty years.

MH: What is the importance of Kurdistan’s geo-politic for Israel, and where can both find common ground for their interests?

JN: Kurdistan is very important strategically since it is at the heart of the Middle East and a bridge between the Middle East and the Asian states. Moreover there is a common destiny between Jews and Kurds that has always existed and creates special bonds with Israel.

MH: Why hasn’t this common destiny developed even some cultural relationships. I can see difficulties with formal political relationships, but why has there been no initiatives to build some sort of cultural relationships?

JN: Well, the Jews who came from Kurdistan and live in Israel have brought with them Kurdistan culture, songs, poems, tradition, even kitchen. It is a pity we do not encourage cooperation in the cultural fields outside Israel and Kurdistan where people can meet.

MH: Do you think the Kurdish factor is becoming more effective in the Middle East with the  Syrian crisis, while Kurdish people in northern Syria are about to build their autonomous government as Kurdish people did in northern Iraq in 1991.

JN: Kurdistan has a unique opportunity today to become a reunited Kurdistan with 30-35 million Kurds living in the Kurdish areas. There should be a geographical and political solution that will be accepted by Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Maybe the best thing would be to begin with an expanded autonomy and as a first stage to unite between Kurds in Syria and in Iraq.

MH: What Israeli approach do you expect towards Kurdish expansion In Syria?

JN: Israel definitely backs the Kurds and I believe will intervene in international forums to assist Kurdistan.

MH: How? What should Kurdish leaders do to get this help and find mutual interests with Israel as they have done with Turkey, Iran and some Arabic countries?. Please could you elaborate this point?    

JN: Israel has never missed an opportunity to encourage the establishment of a Kurdish homeland. Our prime ministers were all loyal to that pledge, because it is morally just and politically a must.

MH: In your article ‘The Kurdish Awakening in Syria: Could It Lead to Regional War?’ you are talking about regional war. What is the position of Kurds in this? Do you think Kurdish political parties in Syria are ready for this? What attitude do you expect from Israel towards this?

JN: I want to say that freedom has a price to be paid, generally it is a price of blood, sweat and tears. Without it there will be no independence and no one in the world will look in your direction.

MH: Israel helped Kurdish rebels in 1960 in Iraqi Kurdistan, but since the time no Israeli cooperation has been seen. What is necessary to revive relationships between Israel and Kurds?

JN: I prefer not to elaborate. I can only tell that, since the establishment of the Kurdish autonomy in Northern Iraq, Israelis have been frequent visitors in your area.

MH: How do consider Abdullah Öcalan’s negotiations with Turkey about solving the Kurdish issue there? Do you think Prime Minister Erdogan is serious about ending the Kurd-Turkey conflict?

JN: The Kurdish problem is crucial for Turkey since most of Eastern Turkey is populated with a heavy concentrations of Kurds. To begin with, the Kurds, like the IRA in Ireland and other places, have to abandon the path of terror and concentrate on a political confrontation. This is the only way the US and other western countries will act decisively in order to promote Kurdish independence.

*This interview was conducted for ‘Awene’ newspaper.

Mohammed Hussein lives in Slemani where he is an editor for www.awenene.com.  In the last two years he has reported from Iraqi Kurdistan for various Kurdish and English publications. He has also worked as a translator and translated three books into Kurdish.

5 Responses to ‘Israel definitely backs the Kurds’: Jacques Neriah
    November 29, 2013 | 16:01

    Proposition for our Israeli friends: Israel has numerous moderate Muslim allies and a large number of Muslim supporters across the Arab and Muslim world. Israel should establish its diplomatic channels officially from now on (Establish its embassies, consulates, representation bureaus in Moderate Muslim states, to begin with). No more indirect or unofficial relations. The US can play mediatory role and exert pressure on Muslim allies, as well. The stated goal can be achieved merely by a set of Muslim countries signing a long-lasting peace agreement with the Jewish state, not by a single individual country. Lets me emphasize here again: A group of Muslim countries all together. If this happens, it will gradually pave the way for more and better ties between Israel and Muslims in future and defeat extremism and prejudice.

    Spend more time on peace initiative than confrontations.


  2. Kuvan Bamarny
    November 30, 2013 | 13:29

    While the supportive remarks of a high ranking Israeli official towards Kurds, is appreciated ,it would have been much more appreciated by Kurdish people and would lead to a better relations of Israeli people and Kurds ,if Israeli government practically have supported Kurdish people and their cause by at least supporting the federalism for Kurds in all four parts of Sardinian if not independence.And also by lobbying USA and Europe to remove PKK from terror list ,and to form a committee to open an investigation the assassination cases of Kurdish leaders in France, Germany and Austria and arrest the assassins and those who planned ordered and cooperated with them.

  3. Suleiyman
    December 2, 2013 | 01:50

    I can see how Israel would be annoyed by a strategic agreement between KRG and Turkey. The reality is as long as Israel has an active conflict with the Arab and Muslim nations over Palestine, it would be risky for any nation or group to make alliances with Israel. It is risky because Israel would never risk it’s national security for Kurds or any other nation and therefore it would be unrealistic for Kurds to bypass their bordering countries and make alliance with Israel. Having open diplomatic channels with Israel is fine, as we should do with any other country, but I would never want to see the Mosad wandering around Kurdistan chasing diplomats of other nations. I don’t see why some people are so fascinated by an independent Jewish academic talking about ties with the Kurds when in reality that means no representation of the Israeli officials.

  4. […] ‘Israel definitely backs the Kurds’: Jacques Neriah […]

  5. Jonah Lissner
    January 23, 2015 | 15:34

    Toward a Levantine Union of Hebrew Peoples: Kurds, Israel, and the Afroasiatic Spring
    Jonah Lissner

    Copyright 2015 by Jonah Lissner. All rights reserved by the Author.
    As Hebrews, Kurds and Israelis have a common ancestor in the Patriarchs Noah, and Abraham, Moses and Saladin. What is a “Hebrew” in this context? A Hebrew can be defined as one of an ethnotribe of Northern, native Levantines or Southern, Nilotic peoples, comprised of Indo-Asian, Semitic, Hamitic or Kushitic peoples from the era or belief of Abraham, and the Abrahamic proselytes before and contemporary to the Israeli Exodus from Egypt, e.g. Israeli, Kurds, Druze, Arameans, Ethiopians, and related ancient peoples from this region; more than 3,000 years.

    It has been demonstrated that the Kurds are one of the closest genetic relatives to modern Israelis and have common ancestors from the homeland of the Patriarchs of the Torah, more than 4,000 years ago. Their geographic proximity and ancestry in the Medean and Parthian Empires, stretching from the Euphrates toward Khorasan, have demonstrated an important and strong connection from a proud, successful, unique and independent Israel and Levantine region in the classical era, to modern times.

    The Hebrew peoples are dynamic and innovative in society and technology, inquisitive, not satisfied with the status quo, yet strong in respect for tradition. Consider the important natural resources of the Caucasus, Taurus and Zagros Mountains, and Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are within the region of Kurdistan and comprising of its deep historical importance and contemporary potential for hydroelectric, petroleum, renewable energy and mineral exploration.

    As one of the indigenous, contiguous “Hebrew” ethnotribes and supertribes of Afroasia including Israelis, Druze, Pathans, Baluch, Beduins, and Ethiopian Amhara, all of the Kurdish peoples in the face of adversity, have millennia of achievements in military, deep culture, innovation and economic sectors. As regional partners, these achievements can be magnified.

    The Years 1944, 1947 and 1948 and 1949 are marked as the Years of Independence from foreign rule in Modern Ethiopia, India, Israel and China; the years that the great nations of Asia and Africa began to throw off the yoke of foreign rule to capture the opportunity for self-rule.

    The developments post-Oslo Accords are of high importance for the entire Middle East. It is this historical precedent that can work to enliven our hearts and our pride in our own methods of worship and assembly.

    Kurdistan can look to the accomplishments of Israel, like King David, since 1948, in science, military, technology and nation-building as an example from not only a start-up nation, but from a kindred people with common ancestry and a complimentary destiny. Arbil, like Haifa is an example of a new era for the Kurdish nation.

    In 2015 all Hebrews around the world must support the grand opportunity for Kurdish independence and interact with their neighbors in the Levant, Near East and Afro-Asia; a diverse and strong economy and society neither impacted by boycotts, imperialism nor adversity.

    We must move past sociopolitical challenges and advance a fully-developed nation, like Israel, Ethiopia and India, Kurdistan, in honor of our past and to build and lead our common future in the 21st Century and beyond.

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