“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” goes a traditional Kurdish saying. No friends but the mountains and Israel would be more accurate.
Israel stood alone when its political leadership embraced the Kurdish quest for self-determination. A “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Kurds. The deep affinity is mutual. Israeli flags were raised during pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region, the US and across Europe.
But less than two months after the Kurds voted by an overwhelming margin of 93% in favor of breaking away from Iraq, the Kurdish dream of independence lies in ruins. On Tuesday, Iraq’s parliament in Baghdad voted to criminalize flying the Israeli flag in the country, accusing the Mossad of orchestrating the Kurdish independence referendum to establish a second Israel in the Middle East.
The move comes after Kurdish forces had come under fire by Iranian-backed militia in mid-October, supported by elements of the Iraqi army, in the northern city of Kirkuk. The forces that rolled into Kurdish territory in the early hours of the morning were driving US-made Humvees, supplied by Washington to the central government in Baghdad for the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).