That dollar amount reflects a -17.8% decline since 2016 and a -14.9% drop from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Israeli shekel appreciated by 10.4% against the US dollar since 2016 and gained 3.4% from 2019 to 2020. Israel’s stronger local currency makes its exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Israel’s 5 most valuable exports generated almost a third (31%) of the country’s total shipments by value in 2020. Those key exported goods are diamonds, heterocyclics and nucleic acids, electronic integrated circuits, phones including smartphones, and electro-medical equipment.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 68.1% of products exported from Israel were bought by importers in: United States (26.3% of the global total), China (8.3%), United Kingdom (7.5%), Netherlands (4.9%), Germany (3.4%), India (3.2%), Belgium (2.9%), Turkey (2.8%), Hong Kong (2.5%), France (2.3%), Brazil (2%) and Japan (1.9%).
From a continental perspective, 35.3% of Israel’s exports by value were delivered to European countries while 31% were sold to importers in North America. Israel shipped another 27.7% worth of goods to Asia.
Tinier percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (3.8%), Oceania led by Australia (1.2%) and Africa (1.1%).
Given Israel’s population of 9.2 million people, its total $49.8 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $5,400 for every resident in the Middle Eastern country.
Israel’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Israeli global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Israel.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$8.2 billion (16.4% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $6 billion (12%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.7 billion (11.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $4.4 billion (8.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $4.1 billion (8.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $2.7 billion (5.5%)
- Other chemical goods: $2.5 billion (5.1%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $2.2 billion (4.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $1.7 billion (3.3%)
- Arms, ammunition: $1.2 billion (2.3%)
Israel’s top 10 exports accounted for 77.7% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Arms including ammunition was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 67.9% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was optical, technical and medical apparatus via a 4.8% gain.
The only other increase in value was the 1.9% uptick for electrical machinery and equipment.
The leading decliner among Israel’s top 10 export categories was pharmaceuticals thanks to a -49.8% drop year over year.
The following types of Israeli product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: US$2.8 billion (Up by 4.7% since 2019)
- Organic chemicals: $2.8 billion (Down by -3.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $1.6 billion (Down by -76%)
- Other chemical goods: $1.6 billion (Down by -26%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $1.5 billion (Up by 318.8%)
- Arms, ammunition: $1.2 billion (Up by 71.9%)
- Fertilizers: $1.1 billion (Down by -7%)
- Inorganic chemicals: $719.9 million (Down by -7.5%)
- Base metal tools, cutlery: $617.3 million (Down by -14%)
- Fruits, nuts: $237.3 million (Up by 35.6%)
Israel has highly positive net exports in the international trade of optical, technical and medical apparatus as well as organic chemicals. In turn, these cashflows indicate Israel’s strong competitive advantages under those product categories.
Overall, Israel incurred an -$20.4 billion product trade deficit for 2020, up by 13.1% from the -$18 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports from Israel that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Israel’s goods trail Israeli importer spending on foreign products.
- Vehicles: US-$5.7 billion (Down by -15.8% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$5 billion (Up by 11.9%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$4.5 billion (Down by -42.8%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$1.6 billion (Reversing a $557 million surplus)
- Iron, steel: -$1.4 billion (Down by -6.6%)
- Cereals: -$925 million (Up by 1.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$914.1 million (Down by -10.3%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$854.8 million (Down by -18.2%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$792 million (Down by -7.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$730.3 million (Down by -7.7%)
Israel has highly negative net exports and therefore a deep international trade deficit for automobiles.
Israeli Export Companies
Ten Israeli corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the world-class Israeli companies that Forbes included:
- Bank Hapoalim (financial institution)
- Bank Leumi (financial institution)
- Check Point Software (information systems)
- Delek Group (investment services)
- FIBI Holdings (regional bank)
- IDB Holding (investment services)
- Israel Corp (investment services)
- Israel Discount Bank (regional bank)
- Mizrahi Tefahot Bank (regional bank)
- Teva Pharmaceutical (health care)
Shown within parentheses is the industry in which each country operates.
In macroeconomic terms, Israel’s total exported goods represent 12.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($354.2 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 12.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 16.5% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Israel’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Israel’s average unemployment rate was 5.4% at April 2021, down from 4.3% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Israel’s capital city is Jerusalem.
See also Israel’s Top 10 Imports, Israel’s Top Trading Partners, Palestine’s Top 10 Exports and Lebanon’s Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Middle East: Israel. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 7, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on June 7, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 7, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Israel. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Israel. Accessed on June 7, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on June 7, 2021
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Jerusalem, Israel. Accessed on June 7, 2021