Relations between Israel and the Netherlands
On the 29th of November 1947 the Netherlands voted in favor of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine and, in doing so, in favor of a Jewish state. In 1949 the Netherlands recognized de new state of Israel de jure. From that moment on formal diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Israel were a fact. The Netherlands would be the first country to send a diplomatic representation to Jerusalem.
On several occasions Israel was supported by the Netherlands, within the United Nations and in various other international organizations. The Netherlands were on the side of Israel in the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries. Furthermore, the Netherlands had an important role in supporting Jews that were being prosecuted, especially in the Soviet Union and in the Arab countries.
The close bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Israel also reflected in the way in which the Netherlands represented Israeli interests during the period of almost 25 years – from June 1967 until January 1992 – in which diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Israel had been cut off. In this period Israeli interests were represented by the Dutch Embassies in Moscow and Warsaw. The Dutch consulates actively helped tens of thousands of ‘refuseniks’ (Jews who were denied permission to emigrate to Israel) by giving them a visa.
Israel joined the UN ‘West European and Others Group’ (WEOG) with the help of the Netherlands and other friendly countries. For a period of four decennia Israel had been the only country that was not part of a regional group.
In the beginning of the 1970s Israel and the Netherlands established a joint program for development cooperation, coordinated by Mashav (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) and initiated officially in 1975. Mashav consists of several projects, courses and training programs for specialized aid workers that are being sent to developing countries. The Netherlands and Israel have joint forces in the field of development cooperation for more than 25 years.
Israel and the Netherlands have signed several bilateral conventions, such as cultural conventions, a social security agreement, a Double Taxation Convention, a memorandum on industrial research and development and a convention on joint agricultural research. Furthermore, Israel is represented by the Netherlands in the board of the International Monetary Fund.
Several bilateral visits of the highest political level have taken place in Israel and in the Netherlands: Dutch prime ministers and ministers have visited Israel; the queen paid an official visit to Israel in 1995, where she spoke in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament and the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu visited the Netherlands twice as Prime minister- in 1997 and in 2012.
Many ministerial meetings have taken place between the two countries. In June 2012 the first Government to Government meeting between the countries will take place in Israel. In this framework further modes of cooperation will be discussed.
The Netherlands is one of the largest trading partners for Israel in the world. In the years 2006-2009 The Netherlands was the biggest trading partner for Israel in Europe and the third largest in the world. About eighty percent of Israeli exports are composed of chemicals, medicine, agricultural goods, machinery and electrical appliances. Israel has a trade surplus with the Netherlands; many of the Israeli products are exported to the Netherlands and then sold all over Europe. Many Israeli companies also have their European headquarters in the Netherlands and see The Netherlands as their gateway to Europe.
Finally, cultural exchanges between the countries are rich, with Israeli dance, cinema, music and literature well represented in the Netherlands - the Bat Sheva Dance Company is featured regularly on Dutch stages, and several Israeli authors, like Meir Shalev, David Grossman and Etgar Keret, are translated into Dutch. Also the Israeli film festival Filmisreal, which came into existence five years ago, is expanding every year.