Photo Credit: Israel Government
The Flags of Israel and Japan

Israel and Japan have taken the first step towards reaching a free trade agreement.

The move, carried out in Tokyo, means discounts for products and goods from Japan for the benefit of the Israeli market, and an increase in Israeli exports to Japan, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.

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Japan has the third-largest economy in the world, he noted.

The two countries are also marking 70 years of diplomatic relations this month. Exchanges have deepened and broadened not only in the political area but also in such areas as bilateral trade, cultural and intellectual exchanges, and cooperation in science and technology.

“This is further proof of their growing strength, diplomatically and economically,” Lapid said. “This is an important achievement for Israel’s economy and Israel’s standing in the world.”

As of October 2021, there were 1,156 Japanese nationals residing in Israel, and 589 Israeli nationals living in Japan (December 2021).

Export and import data from 2020 indicates that Israel exports $1.23 billion in electrical equipment, chemical products, scientific and optical instruments, general machinery to Japan. Japan exports $1.51 billion in transportation machinery, general machinery, electrical equipment, chemical products to Israel.

Israel-Japan business and economic relations are at an all-time high, the American Jewish Committee’s Asia Pacific Institute noted earlier this year. Moreover, Israeli disaster response teams were among the first on the scene following Japan’s March 2011 triple disaster, when the country was hit by the so-called Great East Japan Earthquake and a tsunami, both causing a massive nuclear disaster in the country.

In addition, Israel and Japan are expanding defense cooperation and mutual tourism.

All that being said, however, it is equally important to note that Japan voted this month against Israel in the United Nations on a resolution to extend the UNRWA mandate until June 30, 2026.

Japan also voted “yes” on an anti-Israel draft resolution entitled “The Occupied Syrian Golan”, and on an anti-Israel draft resolution entitled “Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem, and the Occupied Syrian Golan.”

The latter, if passed by the UN General Assembly, would reiterate the demand for the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, ‘East Jerusalem’, and the Golan Heights (where Israeli sovereignty was recognized under the US administration of former President Donald Trump).

The resolution, thus far supported by Japan, would also reiterate a call for the “prevention of all acts of violence, destruction, harassment and provocation by Israeli settlers” and call for accountability for the “illegal actions perpetrated by Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.