Israel is an important trade partner for Switzerland in the Middle East. Nearly 16,000 Swiss citizens live in this country and form one of the largest colonies of Swiss abroad that is found in Asian territory. Switzerland strives to maintain good relations with both parties to the conflict between Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territory.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Israel
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In April 2012, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman came to Bern for a working visit during which discussions touched on bilateral relations, the Middle East Peace Process, and the humanitarian challenges linked to the latter. Since 2004, Israel and Switzerland have been regularly engaged in political dialogue.
For Switzerland, Israel represents a key commercial partner and export market in the Middle East. Since 1993, there exists a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Israel.
Cooperation in the domain of education
Foreign scholars and artists from Israel can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland is committed to a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict and to the respect for International Humanitarian Law. Furthermore, it successfully advocated for the admission of Magen David Adom (Red Star of David) into the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Switzerland pursues the objective of a negotiated, just, and sustainable peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian State within secure and internationally recognized borders. Switzerland believes that a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict must meet the following criteria:
- Lasting peace in the entire region based on International Law
- The recognition of Israel's right to exist, particularly its right to security within safe and internationally recognized borders
- The recognition of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, along with their right to set up a viable State in accord with UN Security Council Resolution 1397
- A fair and comprehensive negotiated settlement to the issue of the Palestine refugees
- A negotiated settlement on the final status of Jerusalem.
The cornerstones of Swiss foreign policy in the Middle East are peacebuilding measures, development cooperation humanitarian aid, as well as the fostering of International Law, in particular human rights and international humanitarian law.
Swiss nationals in Israel
In 2015, there were 18,440 Swiss national living in Israel. They form the largest colony of Swiss abroad in the Asian region.
History of bilateral relations
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.
After escalation of the Middle East conflict, Switzerland halted arms sales and military cooperation with Israel for several years (2002–2005).