Rachel Avraham
Rachel AvrahamCourtesy

Israelis Advocate for Peace in the South Caucuses following ceasefire

By Rachel Avraham

As Azerbaijan and Armenia almost came to the brink of war, a petition calling for “world peace in the Caucuses” was signed to encourage both the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis to reach an understanding that will lead to peace.

"We don't want bloodshed in any conflict, we don't want to see an unresolved conflict. We call for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to any conflict. Those who are in favor of peace around the world should encourage other organizations to join the "World for Peace in the Caucasus" initiative," the Head of the Young Ambassadors Organization of Zimbabwe Abiel Mawere stated.

In the period leading up to the ceasefire deal, the Azerbaijanis came under fire for an “alleged humanitarian crisis” due to an alleged blockade of the Lachin Corridor that blocked off access to the Armenians in Karabakh, even though the Azerbaijan government had repeatedly offered to supply the Armenians of Karabakh with food, medicine and more via roads that provide closer and faster passage than the Lachin Corridor. The land routes Azerbaijan offers are decent roads according to the European Union, the U.S. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the “immediate and simultaneous opening of both corridors.”

For Israelis, this has an uncanny resemblance to people who falsely claimed that the people of Gaza are starving due to the Gaza blockade. The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and others have accused the State of Israel of literally starving the people of Gaza under its blockade, even though the State of Israel regularly permits the flow of more than adequatehumanitarian assistance into the coastal strip. On a regular basis, these international organizations and NGOs overlook how rockets, incendiary balloons, mortars and other weapons have been fired out of the coastal strip utilizing stuff that was smuggled into Gaza, while accusing Israel of creating a humanitarian crisis.

Azerbaijan is a strong ally of Israel and thus often gets the Israel treatment in international media outlets. For close to thirty years, Armenia illegally occupied the Karabakh region in violation of four UN Security Council resolutions, ethnically cleansing close to one million Azerbaijanis from their homeland in the First Karabakh War. Following the Second Karabakh War, Azerbaijan reclaimed the Karabakh region and the seven Azerbaijani districts that were illegally occupied by Armenia, and permitted an Armenian settler community to remain in the region in the hopes that they would be able to live in peace with multi-cultural Azerbaijan, which already has a thriving community of 30,000 Jews, as well as a significant Russian Orthodox and Catholic community.

The Azerbaijanis believe that these Armenians can be re-incorporated into their country as citizens with equal rights, while the Armenian settlers and elements of the Armenian Diaspora vehemently oppose this move. After six Azerbaijanis were killed in landmine explosions, everything was derailed and the two countries came close to the brink on war. But now that the Armenians agreed to disarm, what happens next remains to be seen.

Ayoob Kara, who served as Israel’s Communication Minister and signed the petition, added in a recent video statement, “As a minister of communication, cyber and satellite and now as the president of the Economic Peace Center, I do my best to make peace in Karabakh and humanitarian aid is part of this process. Therefore, we must do everything that humanitarian aid is delivered to this area.”

Prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar, who also signed the petition, added that the issue is not really about delivering humanitarian aid to the Armenian population of Karabakh: “I think that the whole thing is about smuggling weapons to the area by the Armenians. Both sides should sit together like big kids and discuss what they could bring and what they could not, and this is my humble view. I support the idea both sides should come to an agreement and implement the agreement.”

It has been reported in the media that Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said that his country and Azerbaijan could reach a peace deal over the Karabakh region by the end of this year. Prior to the recent escalation, he claimed that he was doing everything possible to conclude a peace agreement. Progress had been made on opening up the roads into Karabakh and getting more supplies into Karabakh. Yet at the same time, in the period leading up to the operation, twenty-eight instances of provocation were reported in July and another 45 in August, alongside 61 in the first half of September. They included harassment by drones and fortifying work near Azerbaijani territory as well as acts of sabotage.

Despite all of this, Hikmet Hajiyev, the advisor to Azerbaijan’s President, recently wrote an article in Politico, where he proclaimed: “Azerbaijanis want peace. We want restitution, reconciliation and, perhaps, one day even friendship with our neighbor. Stories that claim otherwise don’t help establish peace, nor do they bring a deal to the table.”

South Caucuses has great strategic importance for the State of Israel. If peace is reached in the Caucuses, it will weaken the Islamic Republic of Iran, as an Armenia not in peace with its neighbors relies upon Iran for all of its needs and thus essentially becomes a proxy of Iran, which helps them to bypass sanctions and do other things that are against the interests of Israel and the free world. An Armenia that is at peace with its neighbors has no interest in an international pariah like Iran and this is why Iran is doing everything possible to sabotage a peace agreement between both peoples.

For this reason, we as Israelis should support this petition and any other measure that will lead to peace being established in the South Caucuses for the benefit of both people.

Israeli tourism writer Orly Spagnul, who partook in the Shusha Food Festival, proclaimed that both sides should “solve issues by speaking together and should try to achieve a common agreement that takes the other into consideration, and should be kind and considerate to each other. They should see the pain and needs of the other side. They should live one beside the other and respect the needs of the other as much as possible. It is very difficult to bridge, but it is the only way to live in peace, prosperity and well.”

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and an Israel-based journalist. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”