From the Friendship of Peoples to the Cooperation of the States
By Moses Becker, PhD in political science.
Jews appeared on the territory of modern Azerbaijan after Cyrus II, the Great, established the Achaemenid Empire, which included both Azerbaijani lands and the territory of the former Kingdom of Babylon. After the famous “Edict of Cyrus” of 538 BC, some Babylonian exiles returned home, while the remainder was drawn into the orbit of the new states economic and social life. In the 2nd century BC The Silk Road was laid a significant segment of which passed through the territory of Azerbaijan, and that determined Jewish merchants and artisans presence here. During the oil boom in 19th century a new established Ashkenazi Jewish community despite the anti-Semitic policy of Tsarism was successfully integrated into the structure of Azerbaijani society.
During the period of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920) the Jews were represented in the parliament of the Republic and were the members of the government. The Jewish schools and charitable organizations were supported by the government structures.
On the 18th of October, 1991 Azerbaijan proclaimed its independence. Religious and cultural life in the country was being revived. As indicated by the national leader Heydar Aliyev “The Jews have been living in Azerbaijan for centuries and never been discriminated against. It is our strong line”
Since the first days of the independence Azerbaijan has begun to establish economic and cultural relations with the State of Israel. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1992.
Israel is Azerbaijan’s third largest export destination. It accounts for up to 40% of Azerbaijan’s oil exports. The trade between Azerbaijan and Israel in 2019
peaked at $1.4 billion, but decreased in 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic. Azerbaijan is going to establish a trade representative in Israel in 2022.
From 2004 to the present multiple agreements were signed between Azerbaijan and Israel on purchasing certain Israeli weapons. In 2009, under an Israeli license, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic began the production of UCAVs. Besides selling weapons Israeli companies conducted special training for Azerbaijani forces; organized various training courses.
In recent years Israeli companies have expressed interest in agriculture of Azerbaijan. Israel has extensive experience in this area and Azerbaijan has fertile land, excellent climatic conditions, water resources and human resources. One of these companies is already implementing the project of “Smart village” in Agali village of Zangilan.
During the 44-day war People of Israel provided a significant support to Azerbaijan. This is not just a matter of precision-guided weapons of Israel but also the arrival of Israeli ophthalmologists in Azerbaijan who performed dozens of operations free of charge to war veterans and regained their ability to see again.
During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Baku in 2016 he cited relations with Azerbaijan as an example of cooperation with Muslim countries.