France has established a robust bilateral relationship with Israel, marked by constant commitment to the its existence and security.
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. 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 Resolution 242, unanimously adopted by the Security Council members including France, calls on Israel to withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict”. Ever since, France’s policy has been marked by a desire to strike a balance between its support for the State of Israel, of which the right to exist and right to security are unquestionable, and condemning the policy of settlement-building in occupied territories which is contrary to international law and endangers the two-state solution.
The political relationship, with regular bilateral visits and a strategic dialogue established between the secretaries-general of the Foreign Ministries in 2009, has been bolstered by considerable cultural, scientific, economic and tourism cooperation. In 2018, the France-Israel relationship was marked by the cross-cultural season.
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 is committed to the role of the French Jewish community, which is one of the pillars of the diversity of French society, and to the action of French nationals in Israel as communicators of Francophonie and its values (Israel is home to approximately 700,000 French speakers, making up close to 20% of the population).
Visits to France:
- Mr Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, 22-25 January 2019
- Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 11 November 2018
- Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2018
- Mr Eli Cohen, Minister of Economy and Industry, 14 February 2018
- Mr Aryeh Deri, Minister of Interior, 10 February 2018
- Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 10 December 2017
- Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2017
- Ms Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport, 14-21 May 2017
- Mr Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, 26-30 January 2017
Latest visits to Israel:
- Mr Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, 22-23 January 2020
- Mr Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, 29-30 November 2019, to Israel
- Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, 25-26 March 2018, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, 4-6 September 2017, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr Mounir Mahjoubi, Minister of State for the Digital Sector, 5-7 September 2017, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr Juliette Méadel, Minister of State for Victim Assistance, attached to the Prime Minister, 2-3 March 2017, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr Gérard Larcher, President of the Senate, 2-5 January 2017, to Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr François Hollande, President of the Republic, 29-30 September 2016, for the funeral of Mr Shimon Peres
- Mr Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, 7-8 September 2015, to the Palestinian Territories and Israel where he attended the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival
- Mr François Hollande, President of the Republic, 17-19 November 2013, state visit
In 2017, French exports of goods to Israel stood at €1.52 billion (up 12.9% compared to 2016). The major French exports (excluding diamonds) are aircraft and automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and industrial products. Israel ranks 48th among France’s customers and 34th in terms of trade surplus (2017).
France ranks 12th among Israel’s suppliers and 10th among its customers (Source: GTA-GTIS, 2017). Israel is France’s 8th-largest customer and 9th-largest supplier in the Middle East and North Africa region. It represents 5.1% of French exports to the region. French imports also increased in 2017 (€1.3 billion, up 4.3% compared with 2016).
France’s presence in Israel has developed considerably since the turn of the century. In 2017, some 100 French businesses were established in Israel, accounting for 5,530 jobs and an estimated turnover of €534 million. According to Bank of France data, by the end of 2017, French foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in the country had reached €2.9 billion at the end of 2017, representing an annual 6% increase since 2012. Israel has one of the world’s most dynamic economies when it comes to research and development (4.5% of its GDP goes to R&D, excluding military R&D spending), it is the world’s 4th-leading country in terms of patents and, according to the Bloomberg Innovation Index 2017, it is the world’s 10th most innovative economy). Exchanges in areas related to innovation are growing strongly, particularly within the French Tech network initiative. The cross-cultural season also saw a major French presence at the 2018 Digital Life Design festival in Tel Aviv.
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 is based on a 1959 bilateral agreement. The Embassy of France in Tel Aviv has substantial means at its disposal to implement the agreement, in coordination with the French Institute of Israel in Tel Aviv, which has two satellites in Haifa and Nazareth, the French Research Centre in Jerusalem (CRFJ – archaeology and humanities), and the four Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) schools (one of which under contract with the Agency, the others being partners).
France works actively to develop active use of French, with the Francophone community in Israel estimated at more than 500,000 people.
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. Since 2003, a French-Israeli High Council for Research and Scientific and Technological Cooperation has made sure this cooperation is coherent.
Under the 1959 agreement, France also works to bring members of civil society closer together through cultural events and an intensive communication policy.
The France-Israel cross-cultural season was held from June to November 2018 in the two countries simultaneously. Focused on innovation, it involved all aspects of cooperation between France and Israel. Its objective was to target youth and develop a multidisciplinary programme focused on contemporary design, the cultural and creative industries (series, film, etc.), the digital economy (French Tech and Start-up Nation), academic cooperation, Francophonie and innovation (for example the French-Israeli VENµS satellite). The cross-cultural season opened at the Grand Palais in Paris on 5 June 2018, in the presence of the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
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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 66 partnerships between local and regional authorities.
Updated: June 2020