Israel Forges Close Ties With Azerbaijan — Both Eye Iran

Oil, Arms and Tech Fuel Enemy-of-My-Enemy Bond

Caucasus Friend: Ilham Aliyev and his wife walk to a diplomatic function. The Azeri leader has forged stronger ties to Israel.
getty images
Caucasus Friend: Ilham Aliyev and his wife walk to a diplomatic function. The Azeri leader has forged stronger ties to Israel.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published September 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Israel was named as a factor in the dispute last year when Azerbaijani officials revealed plans by local extremists, aided by Iran, to blow up the Israeli and American embassies in Baku.

Also last year, Iran accused Azerbaijan of helping Israel assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists and gather intelligence. The situation was inflamed further by a Reuters report that Israel planned to use Azerbaijani airfields in the event of a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israeli and Azerbaijani officials denied the report.

“These reports sound like James Bond stories, and that’s exactly what they are,” said Raphael Harpaz, Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, at his office at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

That said, “Azerbaijan has taken a courageous stand against efforts to destabilize the region,” Harpaz added – an obvious reference to Iran.

Harpaz said anti-Semitic sentiment, prevalent in much of the Muslim world, is virtually nonexistent in Azerbaijan, a secular country with guaranteed freedom of worship and – unlike its abstemious southern neighbor – teeming with bars and nightclubs where scantily dressed women dance to Turkish and Russian pop hits.

“Azerbaijan’s economic success and relatively liberal attitudes form a contrast with Iran’s restrictive policies and a viable alternative, which is probably making the Mullah regime uncomfortable,” Idan said.

Despite Baku’s attempts to keep the peace, American diplomats believe Azerbaijan considers Iran “a major, even existential security threat,” according to an assessment in a leaked diplomatic cable from 2009. The country’s cooperation with Israel “flows from this shared recognition,” the cable read.

Idan says Azerbaijan’s closeness with Israel is actually aimed at a different regional foe: Armenia, Azerbaijan’s neighbor to the west, against whom Azerbaijan has fought two wars in the last century over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Aliyev considers the conflict unfinished, which has led to American and European reluctance to sell him weapons he can’t obtain elsewhere. Israel has no such qualms.

Israel, too, may have broader reasons for cultivating ties with Azerbaijan. The Jewish state has long sought out non-Arab moderate Muslim nations as allies as a counterweight to the hostile Muslim nations that surround it.

Eldar Mamedov, an Azerbaijan-born political adviser at the European Parliament in Brussels, wrote in January that Israel sees Azerbaijan as a replacement for Turkey, whose once-close partnership with Israel hasn’t recovered from the 2010 storming by Israeli commandos of a Turkish ship bound for Gaza.

But Fuad Akhundov, a historian and government spokesman, told JTA that personal bonds between Jews and Azerbaijanis over the centuries has helped cement the bond.

“Jews here have always been perceived as promoters of progress, part of the elite, as something which holds potential,” Akhundov said. “These positive feelings had a role in the establishment of warm bilateral ties.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.