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Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Israel
The establishment of the State of Israel is closely linked with Switzerland: The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897. In addition, 15 other congresses out of a total of 22 were also held in Switzerland. Before the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine, Switzerland maintained a consulate in Jerusalem (accredited to the British Mandate) and a consular agency in Tel Aviv. It recognized the new state in 1949 and opened a consulate in Tel Aviv. This consulate was upgraded to an embassy in 1958. The Swiss community in Israel is the largest in the Asian region, totalling around 15,000 persons.
Israel is one of Switzerland's most important export markets in the Middle East. Bilateral agreements govern relations in many different areas: air connections (1952), trade (1956), extradition (1958), handling of disputes in composition, judicial and arbitration proceedings (1965), abolishment of visas (1967), social security (1984) and double taxation (2002). Since 1993 there has been a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Israel. After escalation of the Middle East conflict, Switzerland halted arms sales and military cooperation with Israel for several years (2002-2005). This led to a certain cooling off in bilateral relations. Since 2004 there has been regular political dialogue between Switzerland and Israel.