Presentation

Political relations

France has established a robust bilateral relationship with Israel, marked by constant support for the State’s existence.

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 contributing to its defence effort. This commitment was demonstrated in particular by the French intervention during the Suez crisis in 1956. France adopted a position of neutrality in the Six-Day War in 1967 (call for moderation on both sides, embargo on arms deliveries to the region before hostilities broke out). United Nations Security Council resolution 242, adopted unanimously with France’s support, called for Israel’s “Withdrawal (…) from territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Ever since, France’s policy has been marked by a desire to strike a balance been its support for the State of Israel, of which the right to exist and right to security cannot be undermined, and condemning the policy of settlement-building in occupied territories which is contrary to international law and endangers the two-State solution.

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 bilateral relationship between France and Israel is also supported by the presence in Israel of a large French community (150,000 people), while France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. France attaches great importance to the role of the French Jewish community, which is a pillar of French society’s diversity, and the role of French expatriates in Israel in the outreach of francophonie and its values.

The President of the French Republic made a State visit to Israel and an official visit to the Palestinian Territories from 17 to 19 November 2013, accompanied by a large delegation including six ministers. Above and beyond messages on the peace process, the visit was an opportunity to adopt a joint declaration planning in particular the holding of a France-Israel cross-cultural season in 2018.

The Prime Minister made an official visit to Israel in May 2016.

Visits

State visits:

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

Visits to France:

  • Mr Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Minister of Intelligence, responsible for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), 26-30 January 2017.
  • Mr Shimon Peres, former President of Israel, 25 March 2016.
  • Mr Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior and Minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee, 11 February 2016.
  • Ms Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, 16-17 December 2015.
  • Mr Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs responsible for International Relations, 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, 5-9 February 2015.

Visits to Israel:

  • Ms Juliette Méadel, Minister of State for Victim Assistance, attached to the Prime Minister, visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories, 2-3 March 2017.
  • Mr Gérard Larcher, President of the French Senate, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, 2-5 January 2017.
  • Mr François Hollande, President of the Republic, for the funeral of Mr Shimon Peres, 29-30 September 2016.
  • Ms Axelle Lemaire, Minister of State for the Digital Sector, 25-27 September 2016.
  • Ms Marisol Touraine, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, 31 March-3 April 2016.
  • The Prime Minister, Mr Manuel Valls, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, opposition leader Yithzak Herzog and former President Shimon Peres, visiting places of remembrance and meeting with the economic and cultural community and students from the University of Tel Aviv, 21-22 May 2016.
  • Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, presenting the French peace initiative to Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, 15 May 2016.
  • Mr Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, visiting the Palestinian Territories and Israel where he attended the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival, 7-8 September 2015.
  • Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 21 June 2015.
  • Ms Ségolène Royal, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations, attending the ceremony for the victims of the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Vincennes, 13 January 2015.

Economic relations

In 2016, French exports of goods to Israel amounted to €1.35 billion (+1% compared to 2015). The major French exports (excluding diamonds) are aircraft and automobile vehicles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and industrial products.

In 2015, France was Israel’s third-largest European supplier behind Germany (7.3%) and Italy (5.6%), ranking at the same level as the United Kingdom (2.7%) and ahead of Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium (all at 2.2%).

Our imports fell slightly in 2016 (1.25 billion, -2.5% compared to 2015), bringing our trade surplus up from €57 million to €102 million.

In 2015, Israel was France’s 48ᵗʰ-largest customer and 47ᵗʰ-largest global supplier (eighth-largest customer and fifth-largest supplier in the Middle East and North Africa region).

France’s presence in Israel has developed considerably since the turn of the century. Some 50 subsidiaries of French companies are now present in Israel and employ more than 6,000 people in key sectors including energy, consumer goods, tourism, services, infrastructure, health, transport, telecommunications and electronics.

According to Bank of France data, the French foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the country had increased in 2015 more than threefold since 2006 and now stands at €2.73 billion, equivalent to about 30% of French FDI in the Middle East (excluding Turkey and Egypt). This increase can also be observed over the recent period: French FDI flows totalled €58 million in 2015 (a level equivalent to 0.2% of French FDI flows in the world), almost a quarter of French FDI flows in 2013 (€270 million, or 3.6% of French FDI).

Israel is one of the world’s most vibrant economies in terms of research and development (R&D) (to which it devotes almost 4% of GDP, in addition to military R&D spending). Exchanges in areas related to innovation are growing strongly (Israeli presence at France-Israel innovation day held in Paris on 6 April 2016 and at Vivatechnology in June 2016, and French presence in recent DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festivals).

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. Our Embassy has substantial resources for this purpose, with a budget of €1.634 million in 2017.

This cooperation is essentially delivered, on the French side, via the Institut Français (French Institute) of Israel, which is based in Tel Aviv and has two satellites in Haifa and Nazareth, via the French Research Centre in Jerusalem (CRFJ – archaeology and humanities), and via four Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) schools, of which one is run under contract with the Agency and three are partners.

France is Israel’s fifth-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 Research and Scientific and Technological Cooperation.

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

The France-Israel cross-cultural season in 2018 will involve all aspects of cooperation between the two countries.

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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 governments.

Updated: 30 May 2017

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