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France and Israel

Presentation

Political relations

France was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, on 11 May 1949. France then actively helped consolidate the young State by participating in its defence effort.

Bilateral relations are now developing rapidly in the cultural, scientific, economic and tourism sectors, while increasing in the political sphere. Bilateral visits take place frequently and regularly at ministerial level. Annual strategic dialogue began in 2009 between the Secretary-General of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his Israeli counterpart.

The President of the French Republic made a State visit to Israel and an official visit to the Palestinian Territories on 17-19 November 2013, accompanied by a large delegation which included six ministers. France’s full support for the peace process and the implementation of an agreement in due course was emphasized during the visit. The French President also commented on the Iranian nuclear programme, against the background of the Geneva negotiations: the requirements expressed by the French President remain the basis of the French negotiating position on the Iranian nuclear issue.

A number of decisions were taken during the State visit to strengthen the bilateral relationship between France and Israel in the cultural and economic areas. They were set out in a joint statement by the President of the French Republic and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 17 November 2013.

Visits

Recent State visits

  • Mr François Hollande, to Israel, on 17-19 November 2013.
  • Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, to Israel, on 22-24 June 2008;
  • Mr Shimon Peres, to France, on 10-14 March 2008;

Recent visits to France

  • Mr Shimon Peres, former President of Israel, on 25 March 2016
  • Mr Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee, on 11 February 2016
  • Ms Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 16-17 December 2015
  • Mr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, on 23 March 2015
  • Mr Silvan Shalom, Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, Minister of Regional Cooperation, Minister for Development of the Negev and Galilee, on 5-9 February 2015
  • Mr Uri Ariel, Minister of Construction, on 25-26 January 2014
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy, on 11 January 2014, on the occasion of the Republican March in Paris following the attack on Charlie Hebdo
  • Mr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, on 7 November 2014
  • Mr Naftali Bennett, Minister of the Economy, Minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, Minister of Religious Services, on 29 September 2014
  • Mr Shai Piron, Minister of Education, on 17-20 September 2014
  • Mr Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 26-27 May 2014
  • Mr Amir Peretz, Minister of Environmental Protection, on 19-20 June 2014
  • Mr Silvan Shalom, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, Minister of Regional Cooperation, Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee
  • Mr Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, on 13-16 May 2014
  • Ms Limor Livnat, Minister of Culture and Sport, on 24-26 March 2014
  • Mr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, on 26 March 2014
  • Mr Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 12-15 February 2014
  • Mr Uzi Landau, Minister of Tourism, 30 January - 2 February 2014
  • Mr Meir Cohen, Minister of Welfare and Social Services, on 7-9 October 2013
  • Mr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, on 3-4 July 2013
  • Mr Yaacov Perry, Minister of Science, Technology, and Space, on 16-19 June 2013
  • Mr Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of Defense, on 16-17 June 2013
  • Mr Yair Lapid, Minister of Finance, on 31 May 2013
  • Mr Shimon Peres, on 8-13 March 2013
  • Mr Shalom Simhon, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, on 12 January 2013
  • Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, 31 October-1 November 2012
  • Mr Dan Meridor, Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, 3-5 October 2012

Recent visits to Israel

  • The Prime Minister, Mr Manuel Valls on 21-22 May 2016, who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, the opposition leader Yithzak Herzog and former President Shimon Peres, visited places of remembrance and met the economic and cultural community, as well as students from the University of Tel Aviv.
  • Visit by the Foreign Minister Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault on 15 May 2016, to present the French peace initiative to Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.
  • On 7-8 September 2015, Mr Emmanuel Macron visited the Palestinian Territories and Israel where he attended the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival.
  • On 21 June 2015, Mr Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • On 13 January 2015, Ms Ségolène Royal, to attend the ceremony in homage to the victims of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Vincennes.
  • On 19 July 2014, Mr Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
  • Mr Vincent Peillon, Minister of National Education, visited Israel from 30 January to 1 February 2014
  • Mr Laurent Fabius visited Israel on 25 August 2013 and met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon, the Minister of Justice in charge of negotiations with the Palestinians Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, the Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations Yuval Steinitz, and Shelly Yachimovich, leader of the Labor Party.
  • Ms Hélène Conway-Mouret, Minister Delegate for French Nationals Abroad, on 21-23 April 2013

Economic relations

In 2015, French exports of goods to Israel amounted to €1.33 billion (+14.7% compared to 2014). The composition of exports has seen little change. Main exports include transport equipment (17% of total exports), machinery and equipment (10%), agrifood industry products and beverages (9%) and pharmaceuticals (8%).

In 2013, France was Israel’s third-largest European supplier behind Germany (7%) and Italy (4.2%) and ranked at the same level as the United Kingdom (2.5%) and ahead of Spain (2%) and the Netherlands (1.9%). In 2015, France’s market share settled at 2.4%, compared to 2.5% in 2014, making it Israel’s seventh largest supplier.

Imports were at an equivalent level (€1.27 billion). The main French imports consist of jewellery and related articles (€138 million), computer, electronic and optical products (13% of our total exports), agricultural, forestry and fishery products (11%), rubber and plastic products and other mineral products (8%), and machinery, including industrial and agricultural machinery (7%). Israel is France’s 48th-largest customer and its 47th-largest global supplier (eighth-largest customer and fifth-largest supplier across the MENA region).

Until the 2000s, France only had a limited presence in Israel. Some fifty French subsidiaries are now set up in Israel and employ more than 6,000 people in key sectors (e.g. energy, consumer goods, tourism, services, infrastructure, health, transport, telecommunications, electronics). Veolia is the leading French investor and among other investments, owns the Ashkelon water desalination plant in southern Israel.

However, French investment has increased rapidly in recent years. According to Bank of France data, the French foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the country has increased more than threefold since 2006 to a current level of €2.33 billion, equivalent to about 30% of French FDI in the Near and Middle East (excluding Turkey and Egypt). This increase was also observed in recent years: French FDI flows totalled €270 million in 2013, an increase of more than 60% compared to 2012 (a level equivalent to 3.6% of French FDI flows in the world).

Israel is one of the world’s most vibrant economies in terms of research and development (to which it devotes almost 5% of GDP). The third France-Israel innovation day was held in Paris on 6 April 2016.

France is among the top five destinations for Israeli tourists, alongside the United States, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation is based on a 1959 bilateral agreement. Significant resources are allocated to this sector (€1.723 million in 2015).

The structure for implementing the bilateral agreement includes, on the French side, the French Institute in Tel Aviv (IFTA), the French Cultural Centre (CCF) in Haifa, the French Research Center in Jerusalem (CRFJ) [founded as the French Archaeological Mission], the French Marc Chagall School and a Franco-Israeli secondary school, both in Tel Aviv.

France is Israel’s fourth-largest cooperation partner in scientific and technological research. This cooperation is based on academic partnerships (including the joint laboratory of Inserm Nice and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa) and exchanges of young researchers. The coherence of this cooperation has been ensured since 2003 by an Israeli-French High Council for Scientific and Technological Research.

Under the 1959 agreement, France is also working to develop the use of French, given that the French-speaking community in Israel is estimated at over 500,000 people, and to bringing members of civil society closer together through cultural events and an intensive communication policy.

Other cooperation

Other areas of cooperation have developed since 2006: sustainable development, including cooperation on management of water resources; the fight against organized crime and terrorism; telecommunications; and transport.

In addition to these government or private-sector actions come the events implemented since November 2006 by the France-Israel Foundation and those initiated under decentralized cooperation, where France holds second place behind Germany with 68 partnerships between local and regional authorities.

Updated: 30 December 2016

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