Israel–Serbia relations

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Israel-Serbia relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Serbia



Israel–Serbia relations are foreign relations between Israel and Serbia. Israel has an embassy in Belgrade and Serbia has an embassy in Tel Aviv.[1]


All diplomatic relations between Israel and Yugoslavia ceased to exist following the Six-Day War in 1967 until they were renewed on January 31, 1992 during the Yugoslav Wars.[2]

The Jewish community of Belgrade[edit]

Ever since the 13th century there has been a recorded Jewish community of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews in the city of Belgrade. The first Jews to settle in the city originally arrived from Italy and the city of Dubrovnik, and later on from Hungary and Spain.[3] The Jewish community developed substantially before and after World War I following the religious autonomy they have received, and many Jewish educational institutions and synagogues for both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were established. By the year 1939 there were approximately 10,400 Jews living in Belgrade.[4]

In the Kosovo region, between the first and second world war, approximately 500 Jews lived in the cities of Pristina, Mitrovica and Kosovska.

Most of the Jews living in Serbia and Montenegro were also killed during the Holocaust and most of those who survived emigrated to Israel. During the war many Jews were given refuge by the Yugoslav Partisans, led by Josip Broz Tito, and many of them fought along their side.

Serbian civilians were involved in saving thousands of Yugoslavian Jews during this period. Miriam Steiner-Aviezer, a researcher into Yugoslavian Jewry and a member of Yad Vashem's Righteous Gentiles committee states: "The Serbs saved many Jews. Contrary to their present image in the world, the Serbs are a friendly, loyal people who will not abandon their neighbors."[5] Currently, Yad Vashem recognizes 131 Serbians as Righteous Among Nations, the highest of any Balkan country.[6]

Today there are approximately 1,700 Jews in Serbia and Montenegro, mainly in Serbia's capital city of Belgrade.

Political relations[edit]

Israeli government's criticism of the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia[edit]

Israel refused to support the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, leading to admonishment from the United States.[7] Ariel Sharon criticised NATO's bombing as an act of "brutal interventionism".[8] In the first detailed Israeli response to the NATO campaign against Belgrade, Sharon said both Serbia and Kosovo have been victims of violence. He said prior to the current Yugoslav campaign against Kosovo Albanians, Serbians were the targets of attacks in the Kosovo province. "Israel has a clear policy. We are against aggressive actions. We are against hurting innocent people. I hope that the sides will return to the negotiating table as soon as possible." During the crisis, Elyakim Haetzni said the Serbs should be the first to receive Israeli aid. "There are our traditional friends," he told Israel Radio."[9] It was suggested that Sharon may have supported the Serbian positions, because of the Serbian population's history of saving Jews during the holocaust.[10] On Sharon's death, Serbian minister Aleksandar Vulin stated: The Serbian people will remember Sharon for opposing the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against the former Yugoslavia and advocating respect for sovereignty of other nations and a policy of not interfering with their internal affairs.[11]

The issue of Kosovo and the Palestinian Territories[edit]

Israel does not recognise Kosovo's independence as a sovereign state. This decision is regarded in part due to the possibility of the Palestinian Authority using such a recognition to justify their own unilateral declaration of independence.[12] However, In 2011 Serbia voted to recognize Palestine as UNESCO's 195th member, against Israel's wishes. Belgrade declared that it would not have opposed a resolution recognizing Palestinian sovereignty, had one come before the UN General Assembly.[13] On the other hand, the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, blocked the Bosnian recognition of Palestine to UNESCO.

On April 28, 2009, Arthur Koll, the Israeli ambassador to Serbia, said that though it had been more than a year since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, Israel had no intention of recognising the declaration, and that "Israel is asked from time to time how solid this decision is, but the fact is that Israel's position has not changed throughout this time. The Serbian people and government should appreciate Israel's position, which also demonstrates the friendship between the two states.".[14][15] In September 2009, during an official visit to Belgrade, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also reaffirmed that Israel would not recognise Kosovo, but hoped the issue would be resolved peacefully.[16]

Economic ties[edit]

Economic ties between Israel and Serbia have been rapidly expanding since 2009, in part due to the abolition of visa restrictions between the two countries in September of that year. On February 1, 2012, Serbian president Boris Tadić noted during a ceremony marking 20 years to the renewal of diplomatic ties that Israeli companies have invested more than a billion euros in infrastructures in Serbia.[17]

In October 2009, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić paid a visit to Israel, during which an agreement was signed between the two governments on cooperation in the fight against crime, illegal trade and abuse of narcotics and psychoactive substances, terrorism and other serious criminal acts.[18]


Since the abolition of visa restrictions between the two countries in September 2009, the State of Israel has been promoting Serbian tourism to Israel through the Israeli embassy in Belgrade. These efforts include annual advertisements on billboards and public buses in Belgrade presenting Israel as a sea & sun summer destination under the title "Oseti Izrael" ("Feel Israel"). In 2011 the Israeli embassy initiated a tourism campaign titled "Ja volim Tel Aviv" ("I Love Tel-Aviv"), which included the construction of a "beach" in Novi Sad meant to simulate a typical beach in the Israeli city of Tel-Aviv and be used as a venue for parties and different activities promoting tourism to Israel.[19] According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, during 2011 4,700 Serbians visited Israel as tourists, compared to 3,000 in 2010 and 1,400 in 2009.[20]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Embassy of the Republic of Serbia - Tel Aviv, Israel
  2. ^ Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs - February 1, 2012 - Israel and Serbia mark 20 years since renewal of diplomatic ties
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Why is Israel waffling on Kosovo?, by LARRY DERFNER, and GIL SEDAN
  6. ^ The Righteous Among The Nations Names and Numbers of Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin, as of January 1, 2014, Yad Vashem
  7. ^ Israeli's Kosovo Remarks Raise Ire April 09, 1999, TRACY WILKINSON, LA Times
  8. ^ Ariel Sharon... by Robert Fisk Friday 6 January 2006, The Independent
  9. ^ Israel government refrains from supporting NATO attacks, By Steve Rodan, Tuesday, March 30, 1999
  10. ^ Russia or Ukraine? For some Israelis, Holocaust memories are key Haaretz, By David Landau, Apr. 15, 2014
  11. ^ Aleksandar Vulin lays wreath at Ariel Sharon’s grave Published on January 20, 2014, Serbia Times
  12. ^ Sources: Israel won't recognize Kosovo, for now, The Jerusalem Post, 2008-02-19
  13. ^ Adar Primor (2012-03-13). "Israel, between Serbia and Kosovo". Haaretz. Retrieved 2012-03-18. 
  14. ^ "Israeli position on Kosovo firm",, 2009-04-28
  15. ^ Izrael ne menja stav o nezavisnosti Kosova, 2009-04-28, RTS (in Serbian)
  16. ^ Press conference with FM Liberman in Belgrade, 2009-09-16, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  17. ^ Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs - February 1, 2012 - Israel and Serbia mark 20 years since renewal of diplomatic ties
  18. ^ "Israel firm in refusing to recognize Kosovo", B92, 2009-10-28
  19. ^
  20. ^