On April 28, it became known that Azerbaijan intends to open a trade mission with diplomatic status and an official representative office for tourism development in Israel in 2021. This was announced by the head of the Azerbaijani the delegation, Minister of Economy Mikail Jabbarov at the second videoconference meeting of the Israel-Azerbaijan Mixed Commission, held two days ago, dedicated to the development of bilateral relations and trade between the two countries.
It is not surprising that this news was received with enthusiasm in Israel and Azerbaijan. The two countries have long been strategic partners and the relationship between the parties most often resembles the tip of the iceberg. For example, in early April, in an exclusive interview with the Israeli newspaper Israel HaYom, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov spoke about special relations with the State of Israel, about his gratitude to official Tel Aviv for real help during and after the war, about his great gratitude to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the possibility that Baku could possibly play the role of a mediator and bridge between Tel Aviv and Tehran.
A couple of days ago, assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmat Hajiyev in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom called Israel a strategic partner of Azerbaijan. "Our relationship is not predicated on words. It is strategic. We understand one another. I think the backbone of the relationship is actually the connection between the peoples. Israeli-Azeri relations are built on honest historic understanding. There have been many attempts to harm our cooperation, even though good relations with Azerbaijan are an interest of the Jewish people across the globe."
In his turn, the head of the Israeli Foreign Ministry on April 29, answering the questions of the journalist of The Jerusalem Post newspaper, welcomed Baku's plan to open a center for the development of tourism and trade in Israel, calling it an important step towards the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy. "Azerbaijan is an ally, friend and largest supplier of Israel's energy resources. We will continue to work on developing important relations with Azerbaijan and expanding them in new areas. This will be a step to continue the recovery of the Israeli economy after the corona virus pandemic," Ashkenazi said.
It should be emphasized here that the current high level of interaction between Azerbaijanis and Jews is not temporary and does not depend on a particular era. Jews and Azerbaijanis in the past, as well as today, always understood each other well and lived together. In Azerbaijan, unlike most of the former Soviet republics, there was no anti-Semitism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations between the two states acquired an even more special character. Today, both states face growing challenges to regional security. Geopolitics and national interests of the two states bring Azerbaijan and Israel closer together. Over the years of independence, relations have grown to the level of strategic partnership. This is the great merit of the leaders of the two countries. Personal relations between President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu play a key role in the development of cooperation between the two countries.
The practical side of this alliance boils down to Israel's import of half of the oil it consumes through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the export of modern Israeli military equipment worth $ 5 billion. But only the naive can believe that this alliance is reduced only to the supply of oil and weapons. Everything is much deeper.
Let's not forget that in the course of the recent hostilities on the territory of Azerbaijan against the armed forces of Armenia, Israel in political and military terms supported the fair position of official Baku. The 44-day war in the fall of 2020 proved to Azerbaijanis the advantages of relations with Israel. Modern Israeli weapons, especially offensive drones, anti-missile defense systems along with Turkish drones played a huge role in the victory over Armenia. As a proverb, a friend is known in trouble. During the war, Israel proved its declared foreign policy doctrine that for this republic, territorial integrity is paramount.
Today, according to forecasts of various expert circles, the supply of weapons to Azerbaijan is estimated at about $ 5 billion. According to various estimates, up to 40% of arms imports to Azerbaijan come from Israel. The main points of mutually beneficial exchange are high-tech weapons, dual-use electronics, unmanned strike and reconnaissance aircraft, components for them, navigation and control systems, optics, high-precision ammunition, etc. It is noteworthy that by selling weapons to Azerbaijan, Israel categorically rejects military cooperation with the enemies of official Baku. During one of the briefings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu categorically stated: “We will not sell weapons to any country at war with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan did not set us this condition, it stems from the principle of loyalty and friendship of Israel towards to Azerbaijan ".And this means that Israel supplies Azerbaijan with the most highly developed weapons not for its financial goals. That is, it is not a business at all. Hence the conclusion: Azerbaijan and Israel, among other things, are precisely military allies.
On the other hand, let's not forget that Israeli lobbies play an important role in US decision-making. At the beginning of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, various Jewish centers, mainly associated with neo-conservative think tanks, called on the United States to support the state integrity and sovereign rights of Azerbaijan.
It should be noted that after Nikol Pashinyan came to power in Armenia, the new authorities of this country, together with some neighboring countries, came up with a plan to harm the partnership between Azerbaijan and Israel. But the boorish attitude of the Armenian authorities led to the fact that soon the newly appointed Ambassador of Armenia to Israel was recalled back to Yerevan.
All of the above confirms once again that Israel and Azerbaijan still face common geopolitical challenges and common extremist groups.
Undoubtedly, the opening of the trade mission of Azerbaijan in Israel is a historical event in the history of the two peoples and will help to further strengthen interstate political and economic ties. Speaking about the economy, it should be emphasized that thanks to the protection of Azerbaijan's fair position during the autumn war of 2020, Israel got the opportunity to participate in new geo-economic and economic projects in the regions of Azerbaijan liberated from occupation. It is already known that in the footsteps of the drones, there will be Israeli buffaloes in Karabakh. In general, the agrarians of Azerbaijan can learn a lot from their Jewish colleagues, who have turned agriculture into a highly developed branch of the Israeli economy, which has managed to become a recognized world leader in introducing advanced agricultural technologies into production.
In addition, there are a number of benefits between the two countries, which may expand in the future. Back in April 2017, between the two countries was approved the abolition of double taxation. In July 2019, both states signed a memorandum of cooperation, according to which Israel acts as a consultant in a project to create a national information system of Azerbaijan using modern technologies. Also, the countries are at an advanced stage of signing agreements in the field of tourism and aviation.
All of the above confirms the fact that the achievements in relations between the two countries are not the ultimate goal of the task. On the other hand, we are deeply convinced that for the goals set to be effective, much between the two countries should remain outside the door.
Associate Professor of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan,
head of the Baku Club of Political Scientists