Israel and Georgia: small countries with future
By Khatia Kardava
Tuesday, August 1Last week Georgia’s Prime Minister had a fruitful two-day official visit to Israel.
On July 24-25, Kvirikashvili met with high-ranking officials and leaders of the Israeli government with an aim to further deepen and enhance cooperation between the two nations. The visit was symbolically dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. A successful bilateral cooperation between the two nations has been actively developing since June 1992.
Within the framework of visit, meetings were held with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein and Knesset Opposition Leader Isaac Hersog. Kvirikashvili also visitedthe Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem and Palestine. Apart from official meetings, the Georgian Prime Ministermet with the Georgian Diaspora.
The Georgian PM’s press office reported the visit of head of Government of Georgia is expected to give a new impetus to the development of friendly relations between the countries.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasized 2600 years of friendship between Georgia and Israel recalling his visit to Georgia in 1999.
“I have visited Georgia and was enormously impressed by the talent of the people, by their friendliness, by the immediate comradery with Israelis that is instantaneous. It just happens. We are kindred souls living in a very difficult part of the world so we are small countries that show a big future. And I think we can offer a bigger and better future for our peoples by working together,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Georgia’s Prime Minister also stressed 26-century long friendship between the nations stating that “the personal ties and relations between the Jewish and Georgian people are truly exemplary.” Kvirikashvili continued that “in this regard, the year 2017 is of special significance as we celebrate 25 years of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.”
The partnership between the two countries and prospects of further enhancement were discussed, particularly, with a focus on economic cooperation. Both sides noted the dynamics of trade turnover data between the two countries and greater potential in this direction.
In 2016, Direct Investments from Israel was increased by 13.7 million USD, which shows a slight decrease compared to previous year’s 18.7 million USD.
In January-June, 2017, exports of Georgian products to Israel reached 8 million USD; imports amounted to 10.5 million USD.
“Georgia's great closeness to Israel covers both emotional and strategic levels, and these relations must be reflected in economic partnership as well, which is the main goal of this visit. We have a very fruitful cooperation in terms of education, health care, agriculture, security and innovation development. For each of these directions specific activities were planned,” said Georgian Prime Minister.
Quick review of Georgia-Israeli relations
The first Jewish community in Georgia dates back to 6th century BC and the country has always been distinguished with the presence of strong Jewish community until 1970ies and later, after the collapse of the Soviet Union when most Jewish people migrated to Israel and USA. In the 70ies approximately 30, 000 Georgian Jews migrated. Today, officially that are less than 4 000 citizens with Jewish roots residing in Georgia.
Jerusalem and Tbilisi agreed on a visa-free regime in 2013, as a result of which Georgian citizens travelling to Israel as tourists or private visitors can stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa during a 6 month period. The same goes for Israeli tourists in Georgia.
These measures have reflected positively on Georgia’s tourism industry. Last year in 2016, 100,000 tourists from Israel visited Georgia due to the visa-free regime resulting to 57% growth in comparison to 2015.
Many international treaties are signed between Georgia and Israel that establishes the basis for further development of cooperation in various fields. In recent period, bilateral cooperation is actively developing with all major destinations between Israel and Georgia, especially, in the fields of economy, agriculture, culture, education and interpersonal relations.
Bilateral Agreements Between Israel and Georgia:
1. Technical Cooperation
2.Cooperation in the Field of Telecommunications and Posts
3. Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture
4. Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments
5. Agreement in the Field of Tourism
6. Cooperation in the Fields of Education, Science and Culture
7. Air Transport Agreement
Fields of Cooperation
• Regular bilateral and multilateral political dialogue.
• Cooperation between legislative authorities. Parliamentary Groups of Friendship have been established in both countries.
• Cooperation in the fields of Culture and Education.
• Trade promotion
• Introduction of tourism capabilities of Georgia.