One of the most controversial documents of modern history is also one of the shortest. This was the Balfour Declaration issued on 2 November 1917. This document pledged the British Empire’s support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine which in 1917 was the sovereign territory of Ottoman Turkey.
The text of the document, drafted as a letter, reads as follows:
"Dear Lord Rothschild,
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet
His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour”.
This document continues to haunt the Middle East as Israel remains a state whose borders were not only forged during a time of foreign colonization of the Middle East but far more importantly, it is the only state in the Middle East that permits the de-facto settlement of contemporary colonials to land which rightfully belongs to its indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians of all religious faiths.
One would think that with global popular opinion turning against the Israel project, that its leaders would know a thing or two about being discrete about neo-colonial rhetoric, but this is not the case.
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he is positively in favor of the establishment of a Kurdish state in the Middle East and further called Kurds "brave, pro-Western people who share our values”.
The gushing language used by Netanyahu is eerily similar to that used by Balfour in 1917. What’s more is that both statements totally disregard the fact that the only people who can legally allow for Kurdish autonomy, let alone a Kurdish state are those who are the legal sovereigns of the territory that Kurds seek to annex. These countries are in no particular order, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Each of these states is firmly opposed to Kurdish annexation of their territory just as Palestinians were firmly opposed to the British and later UN annexation of Palestine in order to make a state for foreign Jews who were overwhelmingly European.
The thinking behind Netanyahu’s statement is clearly similar to that behind the British elites of the early 20th century. Just as the British Empire was a colonial regime facing decline, so too is Israel a colonial regime whose plans to annex its neighbors have been met with fierce resistance, most recently when in 2006, Hezbollah liberated southern Lebanon from the last vestiges of Israeli occupation.
In 1982, the Zionist publication Kivunim revealed the Yinon Plan, a long term goal for geo-strategic expansion of the Israeli state to cover territories of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
The only analogous plan in modern history is the comparatively recent plan for Greater Albania, a plan which would see the existing Albanian regime in Tirana annex parts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece.
Like many colonial powers preferring divide and rule techniques to outright conquest, it would appear that Israel has decided to do with the Kurds what the British once did with the Zionists: support their claims to someone else’s land. The main difference being that Kurds are settled residents in Middle Eastern nations whereas the European Jewry who made up Israel’s early population had no real connection to Palestine other than those justified by pseudo-scientific Zionist ideology.
It boils down to Israel having no allies in the region and increasingly beyond and therefore advocating for the creation of a state that could reasonably amount to a client state just as Israel remains dependent greatly on money and immigration for Europe and North America to sustain its military and economy.
But just as many colonial plans backfire, so too could this. A would-be Kurdish state in the Middle East would have Israel as a lone regional ally (with the speculative possibility of Saudi Arabia as a kind of semi-ally) and it would likely have an ally in the United States. Russia’s position would most likely evolve into one of agnostic acceptance, but again this depends a great deal on how Turkey’s burgeoning alliance with Russia pans out. At the end of the day, no one in Russia would trade Turkey for a Kurdistan, even in spite of an historical record which might point to the contrary but which bears no relationship to present economic and geo-strategic realities.
Because of this, it is wise to remember that although America is the world’s number one supporter of Israel, not all American Presidents have friendly relations with Israel leaders. Nixon, Clinton and Obama often had a great deal of difficulty working with intractable Israeli leaders.
And this is where a Kurdish state might work to Israel’s disadvantage. If a would-be Kurdistan and Israel remained America’s two satellites in the Middle East, America would have the distinct advantage of being able to pick a ‘flavor of the month’ or even year.
All it would take is a difficult Israeli leader to appear less attractive to moderates in Washington vis-à-vis a Kurdish leader desperate for US aid to make Kurdistan America’s number one friend in the region.
With all things colonial, it is well advised to be careful what you wish for. The law of unintended consequences which exists in all geo-political relations is always magnified when the powers that be start to re-draw the geo-political map.