Why does Israel highly values friendly relations with Muslim Azerbaijan?

In April 2017, a congratulatory letter to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included: Israel is proud to have been one of the first nations to recognize the independent Republic of Azerbaijan. In the quarter-century since our countries have built a solid relationship based on the genuine friendship between the Jewish and Azerbaijani peoples. Azerbaijan is a model of interfaith and multicultural harmony in an area fraught with religious and ethnic rivalries. Like you, Israel is a beacon of stability and tolerance in an unstable region. Despite the challenges we face, we have both succeeded in creating thriving economies and vibrant, prosperous and peace-seeking societies.

Let’s look at in detail why Muslim Azerbaijan is so pro-Jew, –aligned with the state of Israel?

Arms Deals

At the outbreak of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani victory, thus, would be a victory for Israel and a massive boost for its defense industries. 

Azerbaijan bought small arms, Harop Kamikaze drones, Heron drones, LORA ballistic missiles, Spike LR, Iron Dome surface-to-air missiles and Barak-8 surface-to-air missiles from Israeli defense companies worth more than $5 billion.

The war has validated the usefulness of this relationship to Azerbaijan. Advanced Israeli weaponry, particularly kamikaze drones, played a fundamental role in decimating Armenian defenses.  Israel thus showed itself as a valuable partner for Azerbaijan. 

Azerbaijan almost wiped out Armenian Iskandar ballistic missiles, surface-to-air missiles using Israeli-made Kamikaze Harop drones and intercepted almost all Russian-made missiles using Israeli-made Barak-8 and Iron Dome missiles. Azerbaijan struck deep inside Armenia using Israeli LORA Ballistic Missiles.

Israeli weaponry is an asset that Azerbaijan will continue to cultivate: from the Azerbaijani perspective; the Nagorno-Karabakh truce is an unfinished business. It essentially refreezes the conflict, even if on terms vastly favorable to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan will continue allowing Israeli spies to operate on its territory with Iran in their crosshairs in exchange for Israeli arms.

Energy Cooperation

Azerbaijan produces 300 million barrels of gas per year. Azerbaijan and Israel cooperate closely in the field of energy: Israel buys 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani-Israeli relations are based on a transaction that sees Israel sell weapons to Azerbaijan, purchase its oil, and lobby Baku in Washington. Azerbaijan’s accounts for up to 40 percent of Israel’s arms exports.

Intelligence Cooperation

Like many autocrats, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev seems to believe that the road to Washington lies through Jerusalem.  Israel, in turn, gains a foothold on Iran’s northern borders for intelligence gathering or even a launching pad for a potential military attack on Iran. 

On March 29, 2012, officialsstated that Israel was granted access to airbases in Azerbaijan through a “series of quiet political and military understandings.” These airbases could potentially be used in a strike against Iran over its nuclear program and other tensions with Iran and would be allowed by Azerbaijan.

Iran has many problems — the pandemic, corruption, repression, international sanctions and a shattered economy, to name but a few — under these circumstances, a conflict with Azerbaijan is the last thing Iran needs.

Azerbaijan will continue its mutually profitable relationship with Israel, but it will always be transactional.

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