Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Israel are good and characterised by mutual trust and close cooperation in the fields of culture, economics, science and, more recently, innovation. Since 2012, cooperation has been based on a jointly developed 12-point programme that fosters even closer and more diversified bilateral relations. The 12-point programme is updated regularly. Ministerial-level visits have also been stepped up in recent years.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Israel
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Dialogues and high-level visits are key instruments to strengthen cooperation. Since 2004, the two countries have held annual bilateral political consultations during which also controversial issues pertaining to human rights and international humanitarian law are regularly discussed. Agreements are also signed within the framework of these consultations (e.g. an air services agreement). The 12-point programme also allows Switzerland to hold annual informal consultations on other topics. Furthermore, Switzerland and Israel hold discussions on an ad hoc basis on areas of interest to either party, such as, for example, asylum or transport.
Israel and Switzerland maintain substantial trade relations. Israel is Switzerland's third most important trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa. A Free Trade Agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Israel has been in place since 1993. Bilateral economic and financial relations have been stepped up in recent years to foster exchanges and cooperation between Swiss and Israeli companies.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Israel may apply to the State Secretariat for Education Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Promotion of peace and human security
Switzerland pursues the goal of a negotiated, just, lasting peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state within secure, internationally recognised borders. It considers that a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict must meet the following criteria:
- lasting peace throughout the region based on international law
- recognition of Israel's right to exist, in particular its right to security within secure and internationally recognised borders
- recognition of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination and consequently their right to establish a viable state in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1397
- a just, comprehensive and negotiated solution to the Palestinian refugee issue
- a negotiated comprehensive settlement of the final status of Jerusalem
Swiss nationals in Israel
The Swiss community in Israel, with more than 20,000 Swiss nationals (2019), is the largest in the Middle East, the second largest outside Europe and North America and the ninth largest worldwide.
History of bilateral relations
The founding of the State of Israel is closely linked to Switzerland: the first Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897. A further 15 of the 22 Zionist Congresses were also held in Switzerland. Before the State of Israel was founded in Palestine, Switzerland maintained a consulate in Jerusalem (accredited to the British Mandate Authority) and a consular agency in Tel Aviv. In 1949, Switzerland recognised the new state and opened a consulate in Tel Aviv, which was upgraded to an embassy in 1958.