The occupied Palestinian territory is a priority for Switzerland's international cooperation within the framework of the FDFA's development programmes, which are set out in the Swiss Cooperation Programme for the Near East 2021–24.
On 14 October 2020 the Federal Council adopted a specific strategy for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA Strategy) for the 2021–24 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; and digitalisation and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. Switzerland's three priority thematic areas for the Near East region are armed and political conflicts, economic development and governance. Switzerland is also addressing the needs of young people by promoting the development of vocational training, thus facilitating access to the labour market.
Switzerland's priorities in the occupied Palestinian territory
The MENA Strategy identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in the occupied Palestinian territory:
1. Peace, security and human rights
Switzerland offers its good offices for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and an intra-Palestinian dialogue. It also aims to improve the rule of law, governance and respect for international law through well functioning Palestinian institutions.
2. Migration and protection of people in need
Switzerland assists local authorities in providing essential services to communities in need, for example water supply services in the Gaza Strip, and in meeting the food and education needs of Palestinian refugees.A new cooperation programme for the period 2021–24 is currently being drawn up and will be published shortly.
3. Sustainable development
Switzerland is committed to increasing communities' resilience to reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid.
4. Digitalisation and new technologies
Switzerland seeks to work with the private sector to create prospects, jobs and income opportunities for young people, primarily in the new technologies sector.
Other areas of cooperation
Trade between Switzerland and the occupied Palestinian territory is modest. A free trade agreement was concluded between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the occupied Palestinian territory in 1999.
In 2020, the volume of trade between the two countries stood at CHF 43 billion.
Education, training and research
Researchers and artists who are citizens of the occupied Palestinian territory can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Switzerland regularly participates in events to promote the French language as part of the International Day of La Francophonie and also the Italian culture week (Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo). It also organises various cultural events.
Swiss citizens in the occupied Palestinian territory
In 2020, there were 105 Swiss citizens living in the occupied Palestinian territory.
History of bilateral relations
Although Switzerland does not recognise Palestine as a state at bilateral level, it has maintained relations with the Palestinian Authority since the the first Oslo Accord was signed in 1993.
Before the state of Israel was established, Switzerland was represented in Palestine by a consulate in Jerusalem and a consular agency in Tel Aviv. Since 1948, Switzerland has in particular provided assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
A development programme was established in 1993 to complement Switzerland's humanitarian aid efforts. In the wake of the Oslo peace process, Switzerland opened a cooperation office in East Jerusalem in 1994. It opened a representative office to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah in 2001.