Not only is Israel not isolated, but it is being courted by many countries around the world, including Muslim states in Central Asia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday morning before flying to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want to strengthen their ties with Israel, Netanyahu said, and “following the strengthening of our relations with powers in Asia, and countries in Africa and Latin America, now comes the connection with important countries in the Muslim world.”
On Tuesday Netanyahu will spend seven hours in Azerbaijan, a majority Shi'a Muslim state, and meet with President Ilham Heydar Aliyev, before flying to Kazakhstan, a majority Sunni Muslim country, for meetings on Wednesday.
There he will meet Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He will return to Israel on Thursday.
Though Netanyahu briefly visited Azerbaijan during his first term as prime minister in 1997, this will be the first-ever visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to Kazakhstan.
Israel purchases more than half of its oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In addition, Azerbaijan is strategically very important because it borders Iran, and Kazakhstan's diplomatic importance will increase beginning in January, when it assumes a rotating seat on the UN Security Council for the next two years.
In addition, both countries are members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“Israel's relations [with the world] is growing at an unprecedented pace,” Netanyahu stressed, noting the “historic” nature of the visit to Kazakhstan.
He also noted that when he visited Azerbaijan 20 years ago he met with the current president's father, then president Heydar Aliyev.
This visit, he said, signifies both “continuity and an important breakthrough.”