Sniping at Erdogan, Netanyahu says Israel not involved in Kurdish vote

Prime minister accuses Turkish president of seeing Mossad’s hand in every uncomfortable scenario, says Israel sympathetic to Kurds

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, October 1, 2017. (AFP/POOL/Sebastian Scheiner)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, October 1, 2017. (AFP/POOL/Sebastian Scheiner)

Prime Minister Benjamin on Sunday rejected claims that Israel was in any way involved in a recent Iraqi Kurdish referendum on independence and took a shot at Turkish President Reccyp Erdogan for blaming Mossad meddling for every tricky situation Turkey faces.

Speaking before the weekly cabinet meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu appeared to be responding to Erdogan the day after the Turkish leader said that Israel’s spy agency played a role in Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence vote, proved by the waving of Israeli flags during celebrations of the overwhelming yes vote.

“I understand why those who support Hamas want to see the Mossad in every uncomfortable place, but Israel had no part in the referendum of the Kurdish people, apart from the deep, natural, longstanding sympathy of the people of Israel for the Kurdish people and their yearnings,” Netanyahu said.

This is the second time Netanyahu has used Turkish anger over the Kurdish referendum to swipe at Erdogan’s support for Hamas.

The Turkish regime has been supportive of Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip and has provided public and financial aid to the Palestinian enclave. Erdogan has met in Istanbul with top Hamas officials including Hamas leader Khaled Masahal. Hamas seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody 2007 coup.

Last month Netanyahu offered some support for the Kurdish vote, while rebuffing a former top general who said the PKK separatist group were not terrorists.

“Israel opposes the PKK and considers it a terrorist organization, in contrast to Turkey, which supports the terrorist group Hamas,” Netanyahu said while on a state visit to Argentina. “While Israel is opposed to any kind of terrorism, it supports the legitimate means of the Kurdish people to obtain their own state.”

Israel has been among the only countries to openly support an independent Kurdish state, and many Kurds have openly welcomed Israel’s support, drawing accusations from Arab leaders that last week’s referendum was a Zionist plot.

Ankara fiercely opposed the referendum and has threatened sanctions against the region, reflecting its worries about its own sizable Kurdish minority.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Istanbul, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (Pool photo via AP)

In a televised broadcast Saturday Erdogan claimed that Turkey had been saddened to see some Iraqi Kurds celebrating the independence referendum with Israeli flags.

“This shows one thing, that this administration (in northern Iraq) has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together,” Erdogan said in Erzurum, in eastern Turkey.

Iran and Iraq’s central government in Baghdad have also have expressed alarm over the referendum last Monday and have refused to recognize its validity.

Erdogan on Tuesday had said Israel should “review” its support for Iraqi Kurdish independence, and warned that the Jewish state’s support for the bid could negatively affect diplomatic ties between Ankara and Jerusalem.

Iraqis Kurds carry the Kurdish and Israeli flags in the streets of the northern city of Kirkuk on September 25, 2017, following a referendum on the independence. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Despite years of close security and intelligence ties, Israel’s diplomatic relations with Turkey have been frosty under Erdogan’s rule, reaching a nadir after Israeli troops raided the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship and killed nine Turkish nationals who attacked them violently aboard in May 2010.

Although Jerusalem and Ankara struck a reconciliation deal in August 2016 after years of severed ties following the flotilla incident, Erdogan has continued to publicly chastise Israel in harsh terms over its policies toward the Palestinians and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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