Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

The Role of Azerbaijan in Israel’s Alliance of Periphery

Academic journal article Middle East Review of International Affairs (Online)

The Role of Azerbaijan in Israel’s Alliance of Periphery

Article excerpt

Established in the 1950s, Israel's alliance of periphery is a loose partnership between Israel and states in the region surrounding those countries that have negative relations with the Jewish state. Over the years, different countries have been part of this alliance. The following article examines Azerbaijan's role as a peripheral ally of Israel since the early 1990s in the regional, energy, and trade realms. The Republic of Azerbaijan could be considered the most trusted Muslim and peripheral partner of Israel.

Israel's alliance of periphery was formed in the 1950s in order to end the newly established state's regional and global isolation, which was a result of its conflict with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. The alliance of periphery doctrine, created by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, is a loose partnership between Israel and states surrounding (located at the periphery of) those countries neighboring the Jewish state with which Israel has a conflictual relationship.^] The alliance of periphery can be divided into two time periods, referred to as "waves" in this article. The first wave began in the 1950s, with the inception of the alliance, and included Iran, Turkey, and Ethiopia. The second wave started in in the early 1990s with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. By that time, Israel had lost all of its original peripheral alliance partners-excluding Turkey, which helped Jerusalem establish ties with the Turkic-speaking countries of the post-Soviet space in the 1990s.[2] Yet Israel's relations with Turkey also deteriorated after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002; however, 2016 saw an improvement in bilateral ties after Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on a peace deal.

Israel's relationship with the newly independent Azerbaijan thus began in the context of the second wave of alliance of periphery in the early 1990s. The fall of the Soviet Union led to the independence of several Muslim-majority states, which were considered "moderate" Muslims with no history of conflict with the Jewish people or Israel. Israel recognized this as an opportunity to continue its alliance of periphery and established good relations with these newly independent countries.[3]

At the time, few could have predicted how far its relations with Azerbaijan would go. Azerbaijan is a country that had never experienced antiSemitism and had even been a safe haven for Jews throughout history. During the eighteenth century, Feteli Khan, a local ruler of the Quba region, established the Red Town (also called Qirmizi Qesebe in Azerbaijani and Krasnaya Sloboda in Russian), where he allowed Jews facing dangers in neighboring regions to settle and guaranteed their security. Today, the Red Town is the only exclusively Jewish settlement in the world outside of Israel. In the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jews facing pogroms in Eastern Europe fled to Baku where they played a significant role in building the foundations of Azerbaijan's oil industry[4] (Azerbaijan was one of the first areas from which oil was exported).[5]

In the early 1990s, newly independent Azerbaijan was wrecked with conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjoining regions with its neighbor, Armenia. The country was also facing an economic crisis. Israel offered to provide the new state with assistance in various fields, including agricultural, military, and economic. Baku, which trusted Israel due to its positive history with the Jewish population and which lacked an alternative (Apart from Israel, Turkey was the only other country willing to assist the new republic.), accepted the offer. Over the years, the relationship has expanded, covering many other areas. Today, the two states cooperate in many realms, ranging from health care to military-including a joint drone factory.[6] After the fall of communism, Baku thus became Jerusalem's most important peripheral ally. …

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