As Turkey launches ground invasion, Shaked calls for Kurdish state

As Turkey launches ground invasion, Shaked calls for Kurdish state

Former justice minister reiterates support for an independent Kurdistan; Blue and White’s Hauser says murder of Kurds will lead to wave of refugees, increase regional instability

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Yamina party chairwoman Ayelet Shaked speaks at a Manufacturers Association conference in Tel Aviv, on September 2, 2019. (Flash90)
Yamina party chairwoman Ayelet Shaked speaks at a Manufacturers Association conference in Tel Aviv, on September 2, 2019. (Flash90)

Yamina party chairwoman Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday reissued a call for Kurdish statehood, urging the West to support the Kurds as Turkey launched a military campaign in northern Syria.

“Our national memory requires us to revolt against violence directed against another nation. Such is the Turkish violence directed against the Kurdish people in northern Syria,” the former justice minister wrote on Facebook.

“I have said this in the past: It is in the interest of both Israel and the United States, for the security and stability of the region, that a Kurdish state be established,” she wrote.

“The Kurds are the world’s largest nation without a country, with a population of about 35 million people. They are an ancient people that share a special historical connection to the Jewish people,” she went on.

A Syrian Kurdish woman flashes the v-sign during a demonstration against Turkish threats in Ras al-Ain town in Syria’s Hasakeh province near the Turkish border on October 9, 2019. Turkish warplanes were reported to be attacking the town hours later. (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

Kurds, especially those living in Turkey and northern Syria, “are the most progressive and Western in that region,” Shaked wrote.

“They are the main force that fought against ISIS and endured thousands of deaths, under a special joint leadership of men and women. The Western world should stand with them.”

Smoke billows following Turkish bombardment on Syria’s northeastern town of Ras al-Ain in the Hasakeh province along the Turkish border on October 9, 2019 (Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

In 2016, Shaked, then justice minister, first openly endorsed the idea of an independent Kurdistan.

“We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” she said at a security conference in Tel Aviv.

“The Kurdish people are a partner for the Israeli people,” she said noting the shared interests of Israel and the Kurds in defeating the rise of jihadist Islamist groups in the region.

Shortly after the Turkish operation inside Syria had started, local residents cheer and applaud as a convoy of Turkish forces vehicles is driven through the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border between Turkey and Syria, Oct. 9, 2019 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

“The Kurds are an ancient, democratic, peace-loving people that have never attacked any country,” she said, adding that economic cooperation should be on the forefront of any official ties.

“It is time to help them,” Shaked added.

On Wednesday, Turkey launched a broad assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, with intensive bombardment paving the way for a ground offensive made possible by the withdrawal of US troops.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the attack on Twitter and soon after jets and artillery targeted Kurdish positions along the full width of the border, sending thousands of civilians fleeing their homes.

Shaked was not the only politician who commented on the Kurdish question on Wednesday.

“As a nation-state of an ethnic minority in the Middle East, Israel cannot close its eyes to the suffering of the Kurds in the region,” tweeted Blue and White MK Zvi Hauser.

Zvi Hauser of Blue and White party in the Israeli parliament on May 6, 2019 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“Murder and deportation of the Kurds will lead to a wave of refugees, change the demographic reality and increase instability, even from Israel’s point of view. Israel must internalize the new rules of the game in the region with regard to all challenges,” Hauser wrote.

The Prime Minister’s Office has so far refused to comment on US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria and effectively green-lighting a Turkish offensive in the area, which many observers fear could turn into a bloodbath for America’s erstwhile Kurdish allies.

In 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had expressed support for an independent Kurdistan. He praised their “political commitment and political moderation,” and said the Kurdish people were “worthy of their own political independence.”

But Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, positioned himself as a supporter of Kurdish independence on Wednesday, tweeting a Kurdish flag together with the hashtag #freekurdistan.

Tamar Pillegi and AFP contributed to this report.

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