This week, Fuad Muradov, the Chairman of the State Committee on the Work with the Diaspora, is in Israel, meeting prominent political figures as well as important expatriate Azeri. His visit comes at a time when Israel is about to swear in a new prime minister and is heading into elections.
The visit of Chairman Muradov, who holds the rank of a minister in the Azerbaijani government and runs a government agency equivalent to Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, is a major testament to the strength of the Azerbaijani-Israeli relationship. It means that no matter who our prime minister will be, the Israeli-Azerbaijani relation is of strategic value to the State of Israel across the political spectrum.
In an exclusive interview, Rabbi Shmuel Simantov, an Azerbaijani Jewish rabbi who lives in Israel stated: “He came to honor 30 years of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. He has been here a lot. He has been here at least seven times. In Rishon LeTzion, it was the anniversary of 55 years of Aziz, the Azerbaijani Diaspora Jewish organization. There, he gave medals to a number of members of the Azerbaijani community.“The rabbi was one of the medal recipients.
Rabbi Simantov believes that no matter who becomes prime minister, the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel will remain strong: “Muradov met with Elkin. Elkin used to be pro-Armenia. After Netanyahu went to Azerbaijan, he changed his position. Lapid has said many things against Turkey. But when the Turkish Foreign Minister came to Israel, he said we love Turks. He does not have a solid position. He changes every few seconds.”
According to him, “The Azerbaijani community is very influential here and Israel has to do what the community here wants. The Azerbaijani Jewish community never suffered from anti-Semitism and has a great connection with Azerbaijan.” In fact, during Muradov’s visit, he came to see Rabbi Simantov’s synagogue. The respectable rabbi added, “Liberman also has great respect for Azerbaijan. He loves Azerbaijan a lot.” Any future coalition in Israel may need to include Liberman’s party, based upon the latest polls showing a tight race.
Camilia Ioffe, the Azerbaijani Israeli opera singer who performed at the Aziz event in Rishon LeTzion, added: “It is very important for us that Azerbaijan and Israel are close to each other and care about each other. It is important that they pay attention to what we are doing here, whether politics, music or sport. There are many other Azerbaijanis in Israel who feel that this is important. The Azerbaijanis here have a connection with the country.”
According to her, “I think it is important for Israel that he came here. Slowly, people are getting to know about Azerbaijan. We have many tourists going there. After the visit, I think things will get even stronger between Israel and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country. It is good that there is a good example that we can be good with everyone. Azerbaijan is a multicultural pluralistic country and multi-culturalism is the key to peace.”
In conclusion, Ioffe proclaimed, “When we get to know one another’s cultures, it is good. They also care about everyone. Fuad Muradov visits all of the country, with all of the ngos and listens to everyone. It is important to the people in Azerbaijan. He cares about everyone here, regardless of who they are.”
Muradov’s visit comes one week after former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara visited Azerbaijan and met Chairman Muradov together with 22 foreign experts at a conference at the prestigious Ada University in Azerbaijan. At this conference, which occurred after he visited the landmine infested ghost city of Agdam in the Karabakh region, Kara offered Israeli robots as a solution to Azerbaijan’s landmine problem. According to the Azerbaijani government, they are already using such robots from a number of countries including Israel in order to clear the area of landmines.
Thus, Mr. Kara’s visit together with Muradov’s visit to Israel signifies the strong relationship between both countries and the great potential for improved relations between Israel and Azerbaijan. In recent days, Azerbaijan has opened a Tourism Office and a Trade Office in the State of Israel. Perhaps one day, Azerbaijan will also have a functioning embassy in Israel as well.
Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by the Honorable Ayoob Kara. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”