Kibbutz Affikim in the Jordan Valley plans to establish a dairy farm in Iraq’s Kurdish region, with the aim of establishing further economic relations with Iraq in general. Evidently, a Kurdish delegation representing Northern Iraq’s Agriculture Ministry visited Israel and expressed an interest in receiving agricultural assistance from the Jewish state, which has helped 50 other countries, such as China, Angola, and Vietnam, improve their agricultural industry by building dairy farms based on the Israeli model.

The Israeli farm in the Kurdish region is set to be the most advanced agricultural settlement in all of Iraq. Kurdish and Israeli officials have already made preparations for the produce produced in this farm to be marketed throughout Iraq. According to one Kurdish official, “Today it is difficult to find locally-made dairy products in our markets. However, we do have spacious areas suitable for growing hay and building cowsheds. We have the basis, but we need technology and knowledge. The production of milk today is done in out-of-date and traditional ways, as farmers lack professional knowledge and access to modern technologies, which we hope to complete through Israel. The Kurdistan government has set a goal to meet the demand for locally-produced food and curb the need to import basic food from foreign countries.”

While Israel presently does not have diplomatic or trade relations with Iraqi Kurdistan due to the sensitive geopolitical situation, Israel has traditionally enjoyed positive relations with Kurds dating back to the 1950’s. According to Robert Olson, a university professor that specializes in Kurdish affairs, “They have a fairly strong, positive approach to Israel, because they identify with Israel’s historical and political themes.” In fact, one organization, the Israel-Kurd Institute, works to foster Kurdish-Jewish relations, asserting that they try to “mention a historical relationship between Kurds and Jews and review this relation without any religious or ideological concerns.”

The President of Iraq’s Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, once stated, “Establishing relations between the Kurds and Israel is not a crime since many Arab countries have ties with the Jewish state.” Furthermore, he claimed that once an Israeli Embassy is opened in Baghdad, he will personally request that an Israeli Consulate be opened in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region. Barzani views terrorism within his country as “a dangerous illness, which should have been treated radically right from the beginning, while now we fear it has become chronic.” Former Kurdish leader, Mustafa Barzani, Massoud Barzani’s father, was considered to be a friend of the State of Israel by Israeli military and defense officials.

By Rachel Avraham