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 2021–2024 period. It identifies five thematic priorities: peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need; sustainable development; economic affairs, finance, science; digitalisation and new technologies.
These priorities are weighted differently across the various regions and countries. Switzerland's three priority thematic areas for the Middle 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 2021-2024 identifies the following priorities for Switzerland in the occupied Palestinian territory:
1. Peace process
Switzerland offers its good offices to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian dialogue. It also aims to improve the rule of law, governance and respect for international humanitarian law through functioning Palestinian institutions.
2. Humanitarian aid
Switzerland supports the local authorities in providing essential services to people in need - for example acces to water in the Gaza Strip - and food and education to Palestinian refugees.
Switzerland strengthens the population’s resilience so as to reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.
4. Employment and new technologies
Switzerland is seeking cooperation with the private sector to create prospects, jobs and income-generating opportunities for young people, particularly in the field of new technologies.
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 2021, the volume of trade between the two countries stood at CHF 52 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 2022, there were 96 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.