Azerbaijan's victory in war brings out Israeli flags. Will relations grow?

Israel and Azerbaijan share several interests, including energy and defense trade.

The Azeri flag and Israeli flag are seen being waved. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/AMIR COHEN)
The Azeri flag and Israeli flag are seen being waved.
(photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER/AMIR COHEN)
Azerbaijan’s recent war against Armenian fighters in Nagorno-Karabkah, an area that Azerbaijan claims, has led to a major victory by Baku and celebrations have gone on for days. Numerous social media users have posted photos of Israeli flags among the sea of Azerbaijan and Turkish flags.
Turkey supported Baku’s war effort and Azerbaijan has purchased drones and munitions from Israel over the years, and is seen as a strategic partner. This means that the relationship could now grow.  
When the war broke out in late September, it came after months of tension going back to July, and also to 2016 when there was brief fighting. Baku has sought to rapidly increase its capabilities in the last decades, improving its army and seeking to use modern drones or UAVs as a kind of instant air force, to take out enemy tanks and artillery. This unfolded in such a way that Baku made slow progress on the ground for the first month, but then hammered Armenia’s armored units.  
Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed area of land that was in Soviet times an autonomous area inside Azerbaijan. Later, in the 1990s, Armenia defeated Baku in a war and the area was run as a self-declared Artsakh republic. This was typical in the Caucasus and post-Soviet areas. Artsakh was similar to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and other small states that were not recognized by anyone. Various international efforts tried to solve the conflict but it went unresolved.  
Azerbaijan has a larger population and is wealthier than Armenia, as a state based on energy resources. It also gained allies, such as Israel and Turkey and sought to become closer to the US.
Armenia had been successful in the 1990s in the war due to its Soviet equipment and it kept relying on Russia for arms but it was also poor and isolated. Despite brief thaws in relations with Turkey, after 2000 those in Ankara sought to hammer and isolate Armenia.
Victims of genocide during the First World War, the Armenians felt surrounded but clung on to Nagorno-Karabkah because it is a historic area where Armenians have lived, along with other groups, including Azeris.
The war this time was a major setback for Armenia. In the first week of November, Armenian forces suffered territorial loses. Turkey threatened to intervene and Russia brokered a deal this week that is supposed to see Russian forces deployed and Armenians leave certain areas. Some 50,000 people have fled the area already. Both sides are accused of shelling civilians.  
The question now emerges whether this will strengthen Baku’s relations with Jerusalem. Israel and Azerbaijan share several interests, one of which is energy trade and defense trade. Beyond that, there are other considerations: Azerbaijan is a Muslim, Shi’ite country and Israel has been making inroads with Muslim countries in recent years. In addition to Azerbaijan, Israel has enjoyed warm relations with Senegal and used to have better relations with Turkey. There are also new openings in the Gulf and in Kosovo.
Together, these are relationships based on numerous layers, one of which is coexistence and tolerance. Israel has much to offer Baku in the way of technology and cooperation. Azerbaijan is a neighbor of Iran and Iran’s regime is one of Israel’s main threats in the region.
There are questions about Turkey’s growing role. Turkey is hostile to Israel, seen as a growing security challenge. Turkey hosts Hamas terrorists and has vowed to liberate Jerusalem from Israeli control in the last year, accusing Israel of having similarities with the Nazi regime.
Questions now arise as to whether Turkey will seek to exploit its role in Azerbaijan, to spread religious extremism or its regional agenda. Turkey is allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Qatar, as well as the Tripoli-based Libyan government and it has been fanning the flames of religious extremism in recent months, particularly with Syrian rebel groups it recruits. However, Azerbaijan was more tolerant historically and more secular.  
The waving of Israeli flags in Baku is an illustration of Azerbaijan’s openness to Israel. There have also been pro-Azeri rallies in Israel. On the flip side, Israel-Armenia relations have been damaged. These relations were just starting out after years of the cold shoulder. Armenians posting online messages blame Israel for their loss and there is widespread anger. That is unfortunate, because Jews and Armenians each share a history of suffering.
However, complex modern politics have got in the way, one of which is the power-politics of international relations and how strategy has meant Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, is more important to Israel than Armenia.
Israel enjoys amicable relations with Russia and would generally like to see peace in the Caucasus, a place where Israel has no political interests. Similarly, Azerbaijan rarely expresses deep interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seeing the Middle East as further away from its traditional corridors of influence.
The recent war may change that and it means Israel will have to tread carefully in coming years as it looks to keep the strategic relationship as strong as ever.