Azerbaijan, a country that shares a border with Iran, made history Wednesday, appointing its first ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov. The decision by the Muslim-majority country follows on the heels of their parliament’s decision a few months ago to establish an embassy in Tel Aviv.
The Jewish state and Muslim state have had bilateral relations since the 1990s, but it has been a slow thaw for Azerbaijan. Israel set up an embassy in Baku (the capital) and stationed an ambassador there 30 years ago. The shared threat from neighboring Iran has brought the two nations closer together.
Azerbaijan is the first Shi’ite-majority Muslim nation to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Several Sunni-majority Muslim countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, have an embassy in Tel Aviv. In all, 94 nations have an embassy in Israel (although only four are located in the capital, Jerusalem).
While the appointment of Mammadov, a veteran diplomat, will strengthen the formal ties between the two countries, the behind-the-scenes connections are well established. Israel is the main source of oil for the Muslim country. Israel provided drones and other military and technology support to Azerbaijan in their war with Armenia two years ago. And Iran has accused Israel of spying on the Islamic Republic from Azerbaijan and alleges that we have a military presence there.
In the Middle East, there is a saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” With Iran menacingly threatening the entire region with nuclear oblivion, many former “enemies” of the Jewish people are now seeking to be our friends. Israelis just want to live in peace, and we welcome these new connections with our Arab and Muslim neighbors.