Baku, Azerbaijan, July 17
By Sabina Ahmedova - Trend:
In the ever enigmatic Middle East an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, accepted by Israel was rejected by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement. Few hundred rockets were fired by Hamas into Israel. The Israeli repost has been firm with artillery and war planes going into action.
In an interview to Trend Agency Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Rafael Harpaz pointed out that "there is not any other country in the world that would agree to live in such a situation."
"What would you do if somebody shoots at you?" asked the Israeli diplomat. "We have to defend ourselves."
The ambassador said that Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal with huge support from the international community, "while Hamas, which is a terrorist group, and has an ideology which is similar to Al-Qaida, to Boko-Haram, to ISIS, says no."
The ambassador said Israel waited six hours during which time more than 100 rockets were shot at Israel.
"This is reality," said Ambassador Harpaz.
"The goal of this operation is to bring quiet to Israel, to make sure that Hamas will not be able to produce and launch rockets into Israel. The Israelis are peace-loving people. We are not fighting the Palestinian people. We fight terrorism, extremism all over the world and we are surrounded by those enemies. They are shooting on our citizens indiscriminately in hospitals, in schools, in apartment buildings. We are using missiles, and an Iron Dome system to protect our citizens. The Palestinians are using their citizens as human shields to protect their missiles. And they put them in hospitals, in kindergartens in neighborhoods. We regret every casualty, innocent people on both sides, responsibility is on Hamas."
Following the discovery of corpses of three abducted Jewish teenagers in the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Israeli government accused the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that new military operations would be launched in the Gaza Strip in revenge on Hamas for the killing of the teenagers.
On July 8, Israel announced the beginning of a military operation dubbed "Protective Edge" in the Gaza Strip. The operation has killed around 226 Palestinians, and more than 1,600 people have been injured. As a result, one Israeli was killed.
Commenting on common aspirations shared by Israel and Azerbaijan, Ambassador Harpaz said "today the world is changing. You see the changes in Iraq, in Syria. See what's happening around us with Hamas, Hezbollah. We are peace loving people. But what is happening in the world is troubling, and the cooperation is very, very important. Both countries are countries that are supporting peace and stability, and that is why those relations, unique relations, special relations, good relations between Azerbaijan and Israel are very important asset for the stability of the world."
Energy cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan
Ambassador Rafael Harpaz also highlighted the excellent cooperation on energy issues between his country and Azerbaijan.
"You are one of the main suppliers of our oil. But we are very keen to learn from your experience on natural gas because we found a lot of natural gas. It is natural that we will do so," Ambassador Harpaz said in an interview with Trend on July 16.
"We are very happy for our cooperation in the energy sector with Azerbaijan. We are now entering a new phase. Israel starts to be an exporter of natural gas. We don't have experience in it. You have a lot of experience. We don't have engineers that are dealing with this."
Israel, said the ambassador, was looking to Azerbaijan as model upon which to mold its energy legislation to create a fund, similar to SOFAZ. The ambassador said that a delegation from the Knesset - the Israeli parliament -came to Baku to learn from Azerbaijan's experience on how to manage revenues from gas, portfolio of investments, how to support the budget and long-term projects.
Revenues from natural gas will start coming in the next two-three years, which the ambassador said was both "good and bad."
"It is good because it is more money for the country. It is bad because we don't want to get the Dutch disease, which makes currency too strong and harms exports."
"Azerbaijan's experience is highly appreciated by us and we are looking forward to learning from your experience in this area."
In addition I should mention that the areas of agriculture, water technology, telecommunication, medical technologies - a lot of cooperation on those areas. "
"Israel and Azerbaijan enjoy good relations in all spheres"
Israel and Azerbaijan have good relations almost in all spheres, Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Rafael Harpaz said on July 16 in an interview with Trend.
The ambassador mentioned that President Ilham Aliyev met Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Davos, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Agriculture Minister Heydar Asadov went to Israel. And there are numerous other visits by parliamentarians, ministers, etc., including Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was just recently in Baku.
On Azerbaijan, the ambassador said it is "a country of tolerance."
"There is a big Jewish community in Azerbaijan, there is a big community of Israelis which originate from Azerbaijan. Jews live here always peacefully and quietly. We highly appreciate that Azerbaijan is a role model for all the countries of the world for its relations toward Jewish communities."
Relations between Israel and Turkey
Speaking on relations between Turkey and Israel, the ambassador said "Turkey is a very important country. We are in the process of reconciliation..."
"I think there are a lot of problems in the world and Israel and Turkey have a lot of joint interests."
He added that trade and tourism has increased "dramatically" over the last year, adding that Turkish Airlines is the biggest foreign airline in Israel.
The ambassador stated that "there so many common interests of those two important countries to overcome our differences."
Relations between Israel and Turkey sharply deteriorated after an Israeli special mission unit seized the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was included into the so-called Freedom Flotilla moving into the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Ten participants of the voyage were killed, dozens were injured, while hundreds found themselves behind bars and later deported.
Seven Israeli commandos were injured as a result of the activists' fierce resistance. The interception of the Freedom Flotilla seriously damaged relations between Israel and Turkey, which were formerly closely cooperating in the military and political areas.
Nine Turkish citizens were killed during the attack on the ship. Israel insists that its military acted in self-defence.
Following the incident, the Turkish Defence Ministry decided in July 2010, to abandon joint naval exercises with Israeli Defence Forces.
Turkish and Israeli ambassadors were mutually recalled in September 2011.
However, it was reported that Turkish embassy will resume its activities in Israel after the government of this country pays $21 million compensation for the attack on the flotilla.
Baku 2015 First European Games
Ambassador Harpaz also said that there is a lot of excitement for the upcoming European Games next year. Israel has strongly supported Azerbaijan in hosting it and will send a strong delegation.
"We think it is great opportunity to expose Azerbaijan to Europe and we are really, really happy and satisfied," ambassador said.
It should be noted that Baku 2015 will be the first ever European Games, an exciting and innovative new multi-sport event for the continent that will take place from June 12 until June 28, 2015.