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PM Bennett being urged to visit Azerbaijan

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On December 25, 1991, Israel formally recognized the independence of Azerbaijan. The strategic relationship included cooperation in energy, trade and security, and cultural and educational exchanges. (Photo: File)

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett traveled to the United Arab Emirates to meet with MBZ, as the Emirates leader is known, to deepen the relationship between the two countries. However, at this critical juncture, some imply that it may be prudent for Prime Minister Bennett to also visit Azerbaijan, as encouraging strong Azerbaijani-Israeli relations is of critical importance for advancing the Abraham Accords and confronting Iranian aggression as well.  

Over the last 30 years, Israel and Azerbaijan have been able to build robust strategic relations.   Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan George Deek noted, “Relations with Azerbaijan have been tested during the 44-day Karabakh War.” Ambassador Deek recalled that 30 years ago, Israel was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan. According to him, relations between the countries are based on a more ancient history than just 30 years, and the largest Jewish community among all Muslim countries lives on the territory of Azerbaijan.

Former Israeli Deputy Minister Efraim Sneh added that he feels great satisfaction with the friendship and close partnership that exists in both countries, when he recalls his first meeting with President Heydar Aliyev in December 1993, and his numerous official and private visits to Azerbaijan in subsequent years and presently.  

Currently, Armenia is reeling from the fact that the UN International Court of Just rejected their claims for “the immediate return of prisoners of war,” “the closure of the war trophy park,” and the “investigation into war crimes by Azerbaijan.”  Also, the UN International Court of Justice demanded that Armenia prevent incitement of racial hatred against Azerbaijanis. 

Armenia’s allies in Tehran are also greatly disturbed with the fact that the Second Karabakh War was not to their advantage.  

In recent days, MEMRI reported that Iranian Army ground forces commander Kioumars Heydari, who directed the October 2021 Conquerors of Khaybar military exercise at the border with Azerbaijan, “complained about Armenia’s weakness vis-à-vis Azerbaijan.” MEMRI added: “It should be noted that Iranian spokesmen are attributing the Azerbaijan-Turkey move blocking Iran’s route to Armenia at the Iran-Azerbaijan border to an Israeli scheme aimed at harming Iran, and they are repeatedly warning Azerbaijan not to allow Israel to operate on its soil.”       

In an exclusive interview, Israeli analyst Arye Gut claimed: “No country in Eurasia has closer, warm, strategic, sincere and friendly relations with Israel than Azerbaijan. This country supports strong, multifaceted, and close fraternal relations with Israel.” As he see it, “Armenia could not accept the fact that Azerbaijan is Israel’s critical strategic partner in the South Caucasus and receives all kinds of advantages from the strategic partnership with Israel, which no other country in the former Soviet bloc receives.”

However, Gut emphasized that there is a reason why Azerbaijan gets preferential treatment by Israel: “Unlike many other peoples, Azerbaijanis have never considered Jews to be foreigners and they treat them as an integral part of society.   Respect and tolerance for national minorities have played a vital role in the development of the country from the Silk Road to the present day.”   

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It is worth noting that in November this year, when the Trade and Tourism Mission of Azerbaijan officially began operating in Israel, the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan Mikail Jabbarov reiterated at the opening ceremony: “We have reached a new stage in our strategic relations. Our cooperation has strong roots, and our relationship has been strengthened and deepened through numerous contacts. We are proud that our relationship is based on our great tradition of multiculturalism and tolerance, where Jews and Muslims treat each other with great respect and consideration. This is the joint success of our two peoples.”

A warm and fraternal attitude towards the country’s Jewish community is a vivid example of Azerbaijani tolerance and multiculturalism, Gut reminds us: “Azerbaijan is a country that hosts 25,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in the Islamic world. We do not forget that during the Second World War, Azerbaijan became the genuine asylum and then a homeland for 50,000 European Jews fleeing fascism in Europe.” 

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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