Israel 'sole foreign supporter' of independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan
Israel has maintained discreet military, intelligence and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s, viewing the minority ethnic group - whose indigenous population is split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran - as a buffer against shared Arab adversaries.
On Tuesday, Iraq's Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said he would press ahead with the September 25 referendum despite a vote by Iraq's parliament rejecting it.
"(Israel) supports the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to achieve their own state," Netanyahu said, in remarks sent by his office.
Iraq's parliament voted on Thursday to remove the governor of Kirkuk from office following a request from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The decision to remove the governor, Najmaddin Kareem, comes after Kirkuk voted to take part in the referendum.
Netanyahu said Israel does however consider the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) a terrorist group, taking the same position as Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
His latest remarks appeared to be a more direct endorsement of the creation of a Kurdish state.
But they will cut little ice in Baghdad, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has strong ties with Israel's arch-foe Iran.
Iraq's neighbours - Turkey, Iran and Syria - oppose the referendum, fearing it could fan separatism among their own ethnic Kurdish populations.
Turkey has the region's largest Kurdish population and fears a "Yes" vote could fuel separatism in its southeast where Kurdish militants have waged an insurgency for three decades in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.
On Thursday, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag reiterated the country's objection saying a referendum was a "historic mistake".
"The northern Iraq referendum must be cancelled, if not it will have a cost and retribution," he said.
Kurds have sought an independent state since at least the end of World War One, when colonial powers divided up the Middle East after the collapse of the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire.