Quebec opened a representative office in Tel Aviv after months of war-related delay—with Israeli consul general Paul Hirschson greeting director Alik Hakobyan

Israeli Consul General Paul Hirschson welcoming Alik Hokbyan, first director of Quebec's mission to Israel.

Quebec’s representative office is opening in Tel Aviv this week, after months of delay, caused by the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and the subsequent war.

Alik Hakobyan, who is the director of the office, had been operating the bureau in Quebec City but officially moved to Israel this week to continue his work with the bureau.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government had announced in August 2023 that it would establish the office in Tel Aviv, within the Canadian embassy, in the fall. It is Quebec’s 35th such international office and the first in the Middle East.

Trade between Quebec and Israel is valued at $525 million annually.

“Israel’s dynamic economy offers business opportunities,” particularly in information technology and life sciences, International Relations Minister Martine Biron posted on social media when the office was announced.

“This office will bring economic spinoffs and will highlight Quebec’s expertise in the sectors of the future.”

Biron was set to visit Israel to officially open the bureau in October, but she postponed her visit and the opening of the office.

“It was supposed to be a celebratory moment,” Israeli Consul General Paul Hirschson told The CJN. “She was required to postpone her visit due to various security considerations.”

The office will be “representing Quebec to the public in Israel, across the entire spectrum of what and who Quebec is,” said Hirschson. “I have no doubt that the major focus will be economic partnerships and business relations. There are a lot of things here in Quebec that the Israeli economy is interested in.”

There is business in both directions, Hirschson said. A few months ago, an Israeli company invested $136 million to purchase a Montreal-based company.

“Israel is a technology superpower,” Hirschson said, with expertise in artificial intelligence, gaming, animation and aerospace.

The bureau will also focus on education. Quebec is sponsoring an international diplomacy course in French at Netanya Academic College together with the governments of France and Belgium in partnership with La Francophonie. There are about half a million French speakers living in Israel.

An agreement is being signed for mutual recognition of driver’s licenses, making it possible for Hakobyan to drive in Israel, for example. Likewise, Israelis who come to Quebec will be able to get drivers licenses.

Hirschson defined the relationship between Quebec and Israel as excellent and said that the government has always been receptive to opening an international bureau and it has been a goal of his when he took on his position as consul general in Montreal.

“They (Quebec government) have been friendly and supportive of the relationship with Israel on a number of fronts.”

Hirschson said there has been backlash from the anti-Israel crowd in Montreal who have campaigned against the opening of the office, but the protests are localized and do not extend throughout the rest of the province.

“They have definitely spoken out and the Quebec government is not inconsiderate. They have heard what they have to say but they ultimately make the decision that is good for Quebec. They have offices around the world and this is the first office in the Middle East. It’s a vast territory that Quebec was not represented in.”