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. 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 been its support for the State of Israel, of which the right to exist and right to security cannot be called into question, 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. In 2018, the France-Israel cross-cultural season was held.
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).
Latest visits to France:
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 11 November 2018
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 5 June 2018
- Eli Cohen, Minister of the Economy, 14 February 2018
- Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior, 10 February 2018
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 10 December 2017
- Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, 16 July 2017
- Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport, 14-21 May 2017
- Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, 26-30 January 2017
Latest visits to Israel:
- Franck Riester, Minister of Culture, 29-30 November, to Israel
- Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, 25-26 March 2018, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, 4-6 September 2017, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mounir Mahjoubi, Minister of State for the Digital Sector, 5-7 September 2017, Israel and Palestinian Territories
- Juliette Méadel, Minister of State for Victim Assistance, attached to the Prime Minister, 2-3 March 2017, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Gérard Larcher, President of the Senate, 2-5 January 2017, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
- Mr François Hollande, President of the Republic, for the funeral of Mr Shimon Peres, 29-30 September 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
- State visit to Israel by François Hollande, 17-19 November 2013
In 2017, French exports of goods to Israel stood at €1.52 billion (+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). In the North Africa-Middle East region, Israel is France’s 8th largest customer and ranks 9th in terms of trade surplus. It represents 5.1% of French exports in the region. French 2017 imports also increased (€1.3 billion, +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 working in Israel. They account 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, representing an annual 6% increase since 2012. This increase was also noted in the most recent period: the French FDI flow stood at €225 million in 2016 and -€31 million in 2017.
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 innovation are growing significantly (Israel was present at the France-Israel innovation conference held in Paris in April 2016 and again at the end of 2018, VivaTechnology in May 2018, and in September, for the cross-cultural season, France was honoured at the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival).
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 delivered, on the French side, via the French Institute of Israel in Tel Aviv and that has two satellites in Haifa and Nazareth, via the French Research Centre in Jerusalem (CRFJ – archaeology and humanities) and via the four Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE) schools, one of which is run under contract with the Agency and three other are partners.
France is Israel’s 5th leading cooperation partner in the area of 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 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 was held from June to November 2018 in both countries. 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.
For more information, visit:
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 governments.
Updated: 18 January 2019