Israel and Italy maintain close ties in the fields of diplomacy, trade, science (research and development), technology and security. Italy is Israel’s third largest and Israel is Italy’s 5th largest supplier of Arms in 2020. Italy and Israel conducted dozens of arms deals, many of them being reciprocal agreements. Israeli and Italian military forces have conducted significant joint exercises since 2009.
Israel and Italy established diplomatic relations in 1949. Israel and Italy have cooperation agreements on R&D and on avoidance of double taxation.Trade Economic Agreements Table- Economy of Israel
In 2010, Italy became Israel’s second largest trade partner in the fields of science and technology, after the United States.Italy now Israel’s 2nd largest trading partner in sci-tech Trade between Israel and Italy was estimated at around $4 billion in 2018. In 2021, Israeli exports to Italy were worth $1.38 billion, primarily consisting of air- and spacecraft, plastics, and electronic equipment.Israel Exports to Italy
Italian prime ministers visited Israel in 2013Press Release- Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta Lands in Israel and Will Meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu (Enrico Letta) and in 2015Press Release- Italian PM Renzi arrives in Israel (Matteo Renzi). Additionally, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini visited in 2018.Italy’s controversial far right deputy PM arrives in Israel All three Italian officials met with then-Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu also visited Italy several times during his term: in 2013Netanyahu: I will not ‘shut up’ when Israel’s interests are at stake; in 2014PM Netanyahu departs on official visit to Rome; in 2015PM Netanyahu departs for working visit to Italy; and in 2016.PM Netanyahu meets with Italian PM Renzi
Italy and Israel have engaged in extensive scientific collaboration since 1971. The first collaboration agreement was signed in 1975. The collaboration included exchange of scientists, conferences, and has a strong focus on industrial, scientific and technological research and development. Israel and Italy have allocated a budget of 800,000 Euro each per year for research since 2009.International Relations- Italy- Government of Israel There are also close working relations between the Israel Space Agency and Italian Space Agency.Italy-Israel: space cooperation confirmed In September 2020 Israel and Italy launched a research satellite into space from French Guiana.Israel and Italy launch Dido III medical research satellite into space
In 2018 the Israel-Italy Joint Innovation Council for Industrial, Scientific and Technological cooperation in R&D decided to financially support academic and industrial cooperative projects at a sum of $4,5 million. Approved projects were in areas such as innovative manufacturing processes, pharmaceutical development, cyber security, and transportation.Israel and Italy announce joint investments in innovative cooperative projects
In 2019 the Polytechnic University of Bari and the Technion of Haifa signed a cooperation agreement to collaborate in the fields of aerospace technologies, cybersecurity establishing a base for collaboration in hi-tech sectors.Yossi Bar: Israel is in love with Italian economic opportunities and culture
In July 2020 the Israeli government approved an agreement with Greece and Cyprus for the construction of a subsea pipeline that would supply Europe with natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Italy. The 6 billion euro pipeline is aimed to be completed by 2025. Invested in the pipeline in a joint venture are The European Union, the pipeline’s owner IGI Poseidon, Italian energy group Edison and the Greek gas firm DEPA.Israel approves pipeline deal to sell gas to Europe
According to Sipri Israel was Italy’s 5th largest arms supplier between 2000-2019. Israel exported to Italy among others Air-to-Ground missiles, guided bombs, Aircraft pods, satellites, and radars.SIPRI
At €473 million ($634 million) Israel was the Italian weapons industry’s top customer for 2012, according to the Rome government’s annual report for arms exports. This is largely due to the purchase of thirty M-346 combat trainer jets from Alenia Aermacchi, part of the Italian weapons-maker Finmeccanica, as part of a lopsided reciprocal procurement package in which Italy acquired approximately $1 billion in Israeli military and surveillance equipment.Finmeccanica wins $1bn Israeli deal In 2019 Italy was the third largest arms supplier to Israel with 6.2% after the US (78%) and Germany (16%).Israel’s arms exports over past four years at highest ever
In 2012 The Italian Defense Ministry purchased a high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite from Israel, valued at more than $100 million.Italian military buys $100m spy satellite from Israel in exchange deal. The deal inlcuded also the delivery of two surveillance and reconnaissance airplanes.Haaretz : Secret NATO Client of Israeli Spy Planes Revealed
The Israeli Defense Ministry announced in 2019 a reciprocal agreement with Italy. Under the deal Israel will purchase seven training helicopters (AW119KX) as well as two simulators for the IAF flight school from an Italian defense contractor and Italy will buy an equivalent value of Israeli military technology, mainly Spike anti-tank missiles from Rafael and advanced simulators for helicopters in Italy.Israel inks multi-million dollar deal with Italy for training helicoptersJerusalem, Rome finalize defense trade: Italian choppers for Israeli missiles
Regarding visits of military officials, in 2010 Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi visited Italy and met officials of the Italian Army. In 2012 the Italian chief of staff, Biagio Abrate, visited Israel and met the Israeli chief of staff, Benny Ganz.The visit of the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army has ended In 2016, Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot visited Italy and met Italian chief of staff Claudio Graziani.The Chief of Staff went on a visit to Italy to discuss cooperation between the armies Another visit of Italian military officials, including Italians chief of staff, was planned for February 2020, but was canceled due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Italy.The Chief of Staff of the Italian Army postponed his visit due to the fear of Corona
Israel and Italy conduct close ties in the fields of cybersecurity and high-tech. Many Israeli cyber security companies have offices in Italy and are funded by Italian government or private companies. For example Israeli company DeceptiveBytes and Italian TAG-distribution represent the Italian headquarter of many innovative Israeli companies developing cybersecurity for banks, public administration and big enterprises.Digital Journal-Press Release In May 2020 Israel’s Export Institute executed a cybersecurity training range in Italy with the Israel National Cyber Directorate, the Israeli company Cympire, the Italian company Brinthesis and the Italian organization GCSEC.CYMPIRE, BRINTHESIS, ITALY’S STAR CERT AND ISRAEL’S NATIONAL CYBER DIRECTORATE EXECUTE VIRTUAL CYBER RANGE FOR LEADING ITALIAN ORGANIZATIONS
In 2019, the US and Israel-based company, Roboteam, a maker of military robots systems, won an Italian government tender to supply the military police, with 40 ground robotic systems in deal estimated at $10 million.Israel-US firm Roboteam to sell military robots to Italy In the same year an anti-drone system of the Israeli company MCTECH RF Technologies was deployed in public space in Italy for a cultural event with approval and cooperation with Italian Police, the Carabinieri, the Customs Police, the Port Authority, Search and Rescue Forces, and the Navy.Israeli Anti-Drone System Deployed to Secure Concert in Italy
In August 2022 “Haaretz” reported that Israel Aerospace Industries has signed contracts with Italy worth about $550 million for the sale of two early warning spy planes as well as support and ground logistics services for the Italian air force in 2020. The CAEW airplane, that is produced by ELTA, a subsidiary of IAI, is an upgrade of Gulfstream G-550 business jet aircrafts, that are equipped with flight controll, communication and intelligence systems.haaretz : Publicly available documents expose what Israel Aerospace Industries sought to hide: Italy has purchased two more early warning, intel gathering planes and services for $550 million
In 2009 the Israeli Air Force and the Italian Air Force conducted a joint exercise in Sardinia, Italy.
In 2011 Israeli Air Force and Italian Air Force conducted a joint exercise in Ovda, Israel.
In 2017 the Italians participated in the “Blue-Flag” international exercise held in Ovda, Israel.
In 2019 Israel and Italy carried out a joint submarine rescue drill.Israel Navy says it successfully carried out submarine rescue drill with Italy
In 2022 the IDF and Italian Air Force conducted a joint training exercise with F-35 fighter jets.IDF launches joint F-35 fighter jet drill with Italian Air Force
Usage of Israeli Arms
- Coral CR Thermal Imaging System – In use by Italian Army
- Spike MR/LR – In Use by Italian Army and Italian Navy
- Elop PLDR Laser designator – in use by Italian Army
- Litening II – In use on AV-8B combat aircraft by Italian Air Force
- Litening III – In use on AMX combat aircraft by Italian Air Force
- Reccelite – In use on AMX combat aircraft by Italian Air Force
- TIGR systems – in Use by Italian military police (Carabinieri)
- EL/W-2085 In use on G-550 AEW aircraft by Italian Air Force
- Ofeq (OPTSAT) Recce Sateliite – In use by Italian ministry of Defense
- CAEW airplane – two airplanes in use by Italian Air Force since 2011. Between 2020-2022 two CAEW airplanes flew more than 4,362 hours and were used in 650 military operations of the Italian Air Force. Among others one airplane was used for a NATO mission around the Romania-Moldova-Ukraine borders.Haaretz : Secret NATO Client of Israeli Spy Planes Revealed – Hebrew
Human Rights Violations
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Italy pursues an anti-immigration agenda through laws and policies aimed at restricting access to rights and preventing people rescued at sea from disembarking in Italy. There were numerous attempts at obstructing and criminalizing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that rescued people at sea. Cooperation with the Libyan authorities to contain refugees and migrants in Libya also continued despite persisting grave human rights violations there. In close cooperation with Frontex and EMSA that are operating drones and ships for their border-security missions, Italy uses Pull- and Pushback practices in order to prevent migrants of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.Italy and the Pushback Policy: The case of the forced repatriation and application of the Non-Refouelement principle Pull- and pushbacks are violations of international law and are considered as crimes against humanity.
Between 2014-2020 around 20,000 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to arrive in Europe. Between January and November 2020, about 575 people died in the central Mediterranean, but the real number is estimated to be considerably higher, according to the IOM.More than 110 migrants die in Mediterranean in three days
Despite the intensifying conflict and systemic abuses against refugees and migrants in Libya, the Italian authorities continued to support the Libyan maritime authorities, including by reportedly donating 10 new speedboats in November, and by training Libyan crews. Italy also kept assisting the Libyan authorities with the coordination of interceptions at sea, including through the continued stationing of an Italian Navy vessel in Tripoli.Amnesty International- Italy 2021 It is estimated that in 2019 9,225 people were intercepted at sea by the Libyan authorities and returned to Libya, where most were arbitrarily detained in inhumane conditions. By the end of 2021, over 32,400 Libyan migrants and refugees had been captured by Libyan coastguards and returned to Libya, supported by Italy and the EU; however, over 67,400 people from Libya and Tunisia (including almost 10,000 children) reached Italy by sea, an increase over the 34,154 arrivals in 2020.Amnesty International- Italy 2021
After arriving in Italy, in 2019 an estimated 24,000 people were deprived of a legal status, curtailing their access to health care, housing, social services, education and work and leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.Amnesty International- Italy 2021
Right to Housing and Forced Evictions
In May 2019, a community of about 450 people, including around 150 children, pregnant women and older people were left homeless after being forcibly evicted by the authorities from their settlement in the municipality of Giugliano in Campania, near Naples.Amnesty International- Italy 2021
Involvement in Conflicts and Wars
In 2001 Italy participated in an armed conflict in Macedonia between the Albanian National Liberation Army and Macedonian Security Forces that were supported by European countries. The conflict ended with a total of 1000 casualties, among them 150-250 civilians.Macedonia : warlords and rebels in the Balkans Italy also sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 and to Iraq between 2003-2006. Italy also was involved in the Libyan Intervention under NATO.
Regardless of the reported human rights violations and the devastating impact of the ongoing armed conflict in Yemen on the population, Italy continues to export arms to members of the Saudi-led military coalition, in full contrast with Italian law 185/1990, which prohibits arms exports “to countries engaged in armed conflict”, and also in contrast with Italy’s obligations under the EU rules on arms export control and the International Arms Trade Treaty unanimously ratified by the Italian Parliament.Italian Liability for Human Rights Violations in Yemen