France is an influential global player in international institutions such as the UN Security Council, NATO, and the G7. It is a leading military and nuclear power, with the second largest diplomatic network globally. It is dominant in Europe, both politically and economically and has significant historic and political links to the Middle East.
Political relations between France and Israel are strong, despite traditional disagreements, mainly on the Palestinian issue. Both countries enjoy robust defense and intelligence ties and have a strong interest in growing economic cooperation. Total bilateral trade amounted to $3.1 billion in 2016, with much upside potential. The French economy is the second largest in Europe and seeks to tap into Israeli innovation, while Israeli companies would benefit from increased market access in France. Geographic proximity and cultural ties play an important role, as France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, while Israel one of the largest French Diasporas can be found in Israel. 700,000 French speakers live in Israel, making up close to 20% of the population.
French foreign policy has a significant impact on Israel. As a leading member of the P5+1, France played an important diplomatic role in efforts to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. France was instrumental in including the military wing of Hezbollah in the EU’s designated list of terrorist organizations and plays an important role in Lebanon and specifically in the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
France and Israel share deep interests in the Middle East, including combating terrorism and extremism, fostering stability, regional cooperation, and peace. The future of Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and role of Iran and Russia in the region are important topics of discussion between the two countries.
ELNET in France
ELNET-France was established in Paris in 2010. It is run by a strong Board of Directors which includes important French political and business leaders. Arie Bensemhoun who leads the French office is the longest serving Executive Director in ELNET. Main operations include engaging senior politicians and officials, research institutes, business and opinion leaders through delegations, strategic dialogues, policy research and publications.
In July, ELNET hosted in Israel a first-of-its-kind diverse delegation of French and German journalists from a variety of European media outlets.
Jerusalem Post interviewed largest-ever French parliamentary delegation, which visited Israel with ELNET. The delegation spans the political spectrum in France, and for most people this is their first trip to Israel.
The purpose of the visit, organized by ELNET France and led by the President of the Conference of Imams of France Hassan Chalghoumi, was to provide the delegation with a better understanding of Israel and to foster inter religious dialogue.
French experts and policymakers came to Israel for a visit dedicated to the topic of cyber security.