As relations between Israel and Azerbaijan prosper, Iran is making no effort to
disguise its fury over the friendship.
This week, the Iranian Foreign
Ministry called in Azerbaijan’s ambassador and demanded answers over a $1.5
billion arms purchase from Israel. Iran, Baku’s southern neighbor, has also
repeatedly accused the country of allowing its territory to be used by Israeli
“There is no military alliance. But there are
naturally shared interests. Azerbaijan is an enlightened, secular, advanced
state,” former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, who was instrumental in
forging the first links between Jerusalem and Baku two decades ago, told The
The country sells Israel a third of its oil, and
cooperation on technology and trade is well developed, Sneh noted.
refrained from discussing sensitive defense contracts.
“I saw the
potential 19 years ago, and worked to bring relations closer as a Knesset member
and a minister, because I saw the similarities and joint interests. I’m pleased
at how things have developed,” Sneh added.
Sneh, now chair of the S.
Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue, spoke this week at a conference on
the relations, held at the Netanya Academic College.
Pashayeva, Azerbaijani parliament member and foreign affairs committee member,
also attended the conference.
Although she did not mention Iran by name,
Pashayeva said that “strategic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel will
continue” despite opposition from “neighbors in our
Israeli-Azerbaijani ties are important from defense and economic
perspectives, she added. Pashayeva also called on the Jewish state to support
Baku’s demand that Armenia withdraw its military from the territory of
Lev Spivak, who heads the Israel Azerbaijan
International Association, said that relations “are very good between the
militaries” of the two countries, adding that the Azerbaijani president’s
security guards are trained in Israel.
On the cultural level, Jews had
lived in Azerbaijan for five centuries free from persecution. After Azerbaijan
broke free from the former Soviet Union, some 70,000 of the country’s 100,000
Jews moved to Israel, but return to visit often, forming a natural bridge
between the two populations, he added.
Asked how he thought most
Azerbaijanis would respond to Iran’s condemnations, Spivak said, “I think they
would be happy. Because many of their friends and former neighbors now live in