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On November 29th. 1947, Belgium voted in favour of UN resolution 181, which called for the partition of British-ruled Palestine into Jewish and Arab States. On January 15th. 1950, Belgium recognized de jure the State of Israel. Ever since that time, the relations between Israel and Belgium have been very friendly, as evidenced by the numerous reciprocal visits and tokens of friendship.
The most illustrious Belgian friend of Israel was Queen Elizabeth, the grandmother of the present king, who felt a deep commitment to the Jewish people and to the newly created State. She helped save many Jews during World War II and was granted the title of “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem. When she visited Israel in 1959, the Israeli president, Itzhak Ben Zvi, spoke of the Queen as “our great and faithful friend”. In February 2010, a plaque in the memory of King Albert I, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, was unveiled at the Albert Square in Tel Aviv in the presence of the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, and Ambassador Bénédicte Frankinet. King Albert I had visited Tel Aviv in 1933 and was hosted by Meir Dizengoff. He expressed on this occasion his deep sympathy for the renewal of Jewish life in this land.
The late King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola came on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964 and visited Israel where they met, among others, with president Zalman Shazar. These visits were followed by many others over the years, Belgian ministers coming on official visits to Israel and their Israeli counterparts welcomed in Belgium.
Belgium stood by Israel in difficult times, as when it voted in 1975 against the UN resolution assimilating Zionism to a form of racism. Belgium has also always been willing to act as a mediator on the diplomatic scene. It was instrumental in helping Israel establish quasi diplomatic relations with Tunisia, in facilitating the immigration to Israel of Soviet Jews in the seventies and of Ethiopian Jews in the eighties. In New York, Belgium helped Israel join the Western European Group (WEOG)at the UN, in order to better integrate the UN system.
Belgian policy in regard to the Middle East is that of the European Union. Like all other EU countries, Belgium is committed to a negotiated two-States solution agreed between the parties which would result in a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian State existing side by side with Israel living within recognized and secure borders.
Many cultural, scientific and economic bilateral agreements have been signed over the years between the two countries. Several Belgium-Israel friendship associations organize activities in both countries to promote and strengthen bilateral relations.
Each year, a certain amount of scholarships are granted to Israeli students to study in Belgian universities and Belgian students come each year to study in Israel thanks to scholarships offered by Israel. Click here for more information on scholarships.
Belgium is one of Israel’s most important commercial partners (due largely to the diamond sector) and a great number of Israeli companies have their European headquarters in Belgium.