Official says Israel advocating for Syrian Kurds with US
JERUSALEM - Israel is assisting Syrian Kurds battered by a month-old Turkish incursion, seeing them as a counterweight to Iranian influence and advocating for them in talks with the United States, the deputy Israeli foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Ankara launched its assault targeting the Kurdish YPG militia after the abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October, a move Kurds deemed a betrayal by Washington, their partner in fighting Islamic State.
In a rare public dissent with US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered humanitarian aid to the "gallant Kurdish people" on Oct. 10, saying they faced possible "ethnic cleansing" by Turkey and its Syrian allies.
Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's deputy foreign minister, told parliament on Wednesday that the offer had been taken up. "Israel has received many requests for assistance, mainly in the diplomatic and humanitarian realm," she said. "We identify with the deep distress of the Kurds, and we are assisting them through a range of channels."
Hotovely did not elaborate on the Israeli assistance, other than to say that during "dialogue with the Americans..., we state our truth regarding the Kurds...and we are proud of our taking a stand alongside the Kurdish people".
Hotovely said Israel’s support for the Kurds is based on "historic ties [and] shared interests."
She added that "there are many Kurdish Jews in Israel who maintained ties with their place of origin." There are roughly 200,000 Jews of Kurdish descent living in modern-day Israel.
Other speakers in the Israeli Knesset voiced their support for Syria's Kurds. Likud member Gideon Sa'ar called for keeping "Turkish aggression in northern Syria on the agenda", adding that "Israel has capabilities to help the Kurds. I am positive this will bear great fruit in the future."
Zvi Hauser, a lawmaker from the opposition Blue and White coalition, said "Israel is the nation-state of an ethnic minority in the Middle East" that should "speak in a clear voice about what is happening north of us."
The modern-day state of Israel was founded by European Jewish immigrants in 1948 with the endorsement of European colonial powers, following a war in which an estimated 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their land to make way for the "Jewish State".
Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, regarding the minority ethnic group - whose indigenous population is split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran - as a buffer against its adversaries in those countries.
Chief among those today are Iranian-sponsored forces deploying close to Israel's borders, including within Syria.
"Israel indeed has a salient interest in preserving the strength of the Kurds and the additional minorities in the north Syria area as moderate and pro-Western elements," Hotovely said.
"The possible collapse of the Kurdish hold in north Syria is a negative and dangerous scenario as far as Israel is concerned. It is absolutely clear that such an event would bring about a bolstering of negative elements in the area, headed by Iran."
Relations between Syria and Israel have been strained since the Zionist State's founding in 1948 over a host of issues including Israel's treatment of indigenous Palestinians and its occupation of territory including the Golan Heights, which was illegally seized from Syria in 1967.
Throughout the duration of Syria's war, Israel has carried out airstrikes on Syrian territory against what it says were weapon shipments headed to Iranian proxies, including Lebanon's Hezbollah group.