OFFICIAL NAME: State of Israel
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Republic
AREA: 20,770 Sq Km (8,019 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 5,955,000
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Israel is located in the Middle
East along the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It
is bound by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Lebanon to
the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east and
Egypt to the southwest. The country is divided into three
topographical regions. (1.) The coastal plain which is a
narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea and contains
66% of the population. (2.) The mountains which consist
of soft stone or dolomite ranges in the north, such as Mt.
Hermon, Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee and Mt. Carmel as well
as the lofty granite peaks of Samaria and Judea in the south.
(3.) The valleys which include the Hula, Capernaum, Jordan
and Jezreel. (4.) The deserts which account for up to 66%
of the land area and include the Negev and Judean. The only
permanent rivers are the Jordan, Yarkon, Na'aman, Kishon,
Taninim, Alexander and the Ga'aton. Major Cities (pop. est.);
Jerusalem 567,100, Tel Aviv-Yafo 357,400, Haifa 246,500,
Holon 162,800, Petah Tiqwa 151,100, Bat Yam 143,200 (1991).
Land Use; forested 6%, pastures 7%, agricultural-cultivated
21%, other 66% (1993).
CLIMATE: Israel has a Mediterranean climate characterized by
long hot dry summers and short warm wet winters. Around 17% of the annual
precipitation occurs between November and February in violent storms, while
further inland rainfall is heavier than the average annual precipitation
of 550 mm (22 inches) and snow may occasionally fall. Average temperature
ranges in Jerusalem are from 5 to 13 degrees Celsius (41 to 55 degrees
Fahrenheit) in January to 18 to 31 degrees Celsius (64 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit)
PEOPLE: Around 80% of the population belong to the Semitic races,
principally divided ethno-religiously. The major division is between the European
Ashkenazim Jews and the Sephardim from North Africa or Black Jews from Yemen
and Sudan who combined currently constitute the ethnic majority. However,
the Ashkenazim are politically and economically more dominant. In addition,
there are two less common Jewish sects in Israel, which are the Karaites and
the Samaritans. Other ethnic minorities include the Palestinian Arabs and
others who account for 20% of the population.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 233 persons per sq km
(603 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 90.4% urban, 9.6% rural (1992).
Sex Distribution; 49.7% male, 50.3% female (1991). Life Expectancy at Birth;
74.9 years male, 78.4 years female (1991). Age Breakdown; 31% under 15,
25% 15 to 29, 20% 30 to 44, 11% 45 to 59, 9% 60 to 74, 4% 75 and over (1991).
Birth Rate; 21.4 per 1,000 (1992). Death Rate; 6.6 per 1,000 (1992). Increase
Rate; 14.8 per 1,000 (1992). Infant Mortality Rate; 9.3 per 1,000 live
RELIGIONS: The principal religion is Judaism which accounts for
82% of the population while 14% are Muslims and Christians combined with
others such as the Druze represent 5% of the population.
LANGUAGES: The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew
is spoken by 66% of the population while Arabic is spoken by 15% and English
is used extensively for government, commerce and educational purposes.
EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: no formal schooling
6.5%, primary 21.7%, secondary 48.3%, higher 23.5% (1987). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over 2,542,403 or 91.8% (1983).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1947 the UN voted to divide
Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states and on May 14, 1948 the
State of Israel was proclaimed in Palestine. By early 1949 Israel had survived
the war with the Arab League of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon
and as a result around 780,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced. In Oct.
1956 after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Israel backed by Britain
and France attacked Egypt initiating the second Arab-Israeli war, although
a ceasefire was declared and the Anglo-French troops were withdrawn. In
June 1967 Israel clashed with Syria and the Six Day War began. Israel defeated
Egypt, Jordan as well as Syria and captured the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip,
West Bank and Golan Heights. From 1967 to 1972 Israel had begun to settle
the occupied territories and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
had also begun raids on Israel from the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights
along the Syrian/Israeli border, which resulted in counterattacks often
by air. The PLO led by Yasser Arafat went on a spate of hijackings and
organized other terrorist attacks. On Oct. 6, 1973 Egypt and Syria launched
a surprise attack on Israel during the holy Jewish festival, although Israel
fought back and a Soviet mediated ceasefire was accepted on Oct. 24. In
April 1977 Yitzhak Rabin resigned as Prime Minister after a financial scandal
and was replaced by Menachem Begin. Begin committed Israel to the settlement
of the occupied territories and also accepted the "Camp David Accord"
which brought peace between Israel and Egypt. In Mar. 1982 Israel withdrew
its troops from the Sinai Peninsula which it had occupied since 1967. Other
measures in the Camp David Accord allowed for talks between Israel and
the Palestinians as well as the creation of Palestinian autonomy, but Israel
refused to talk to the PLO which it considered a "terrorist organization".
In 1978 the PLO launched more bombings and terrorist activities. In June
1982 Israel launched an attack on Lebanon to drive out the PLO based there
and by 1986 agreed to withdraw its troops. Israel established a security
zone in southern Lebanon to minimize cross border attacks by the PLO who
returned after the war. In late 1983 Begin resigned and was replaced by
Yitzhak Shamir and by Mar. 1986 the PLO were organizing around 20 bomb
attacks per month in the occupied West Bank. On Dec. 9, 1987 the Palestinian
uprising or Intifada began, where rock throwing Palestinians were confronted
by armed riot police resulting in hundreds of Palestinians being killed.
In July 1988 Jordan dropped its claims to the West Bank which was considered
part of its territory before the 1967 Six Day War. On Oct. 8, 1990 eighteen
Arabs were shot dead and more than a hundred injured in a uprising in the
Old City of Jerusalem. In Jan. 1991 and within 24 hours of the beginning
of the Gulf War, Iraq's Pres. Saddam Hussein ordered Scud missile attacks
on Israel a non-combatant. The US rushed Patriot anti-missile missiles
to Israel which reduced the effectiveness of the Scuds and more importantly
Saddam Hussein's attempts to undermine the Arab nations solidarity by drawing
Israel into the war. After the Gulf War the US increased their efforts
to achieve "comprehensive peace" for the region with the US Secretary
of State, James Baker over an 8 month period taking 8 negotiating trips
to the Middle East that eventually led to the conditional agreement of
both the Syrians and Israelis to open bilateral talks. On Nov. 3, 1991
talks were held in Madrid, Spain to consider the future venue of meetings
and the negotiating agenda for the meetings while further separate meetings
were held in an attempt to establish a similar agreement between Israel,
Jordan and the Palestinians. Also during 1991 the continuing arrival of
some 800-1,200 Soviet Jews per day overshadowed national life and put massive
strains on the Israeli social and economic structure. As a result of the
mass immigration the government allocated a quarter of all expenditure
to housing, employment, education and welfare assistance for the new arrivals.
In June 1992 Prime Minister Shamir was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin who announced
his intention to attempt, for the first time, to reach a regional comprehensive
peace and a solution for the displaced Palestinians. However, UN Resolution
242 that set out parameters for a "negotiated" peace settlement
had become a deadlock to further advancement of the peace process with
the Arab interpretation that its mandatory parameters of "the establishment
of agreed and secure boundaries" be "implemented" prior
to any peace negotiations. Both Syria and the Palestinians insisted that
Israel withdraw fully from the occupied West Bank and other territories
it captured in the 1967 war before any negotiated peace settlement could
occur, although from the Israeli government's position this was totally
unacceptable. Further actions such as the continuation of Jewish settlement
of the West Bank and Prime Minister Rabin's action of deporting 415 Palestinian
fundamentalists on Dec. 17, 1992 further stalled the peace process. In
Feb. 1993 Rabin, noting that no real progress was being made in Washington
with the Syrians and the Palestinians, introduced a new facet of Israeli
policy by actively pursuing talks, offering concessions and making peace
with Syrian, Jordan and the Palestinians. As a result, Prime Minister Rabin
and Foreign Minister Shimon Perez with a select number of officials opened
secret behind the scenes discussions with Yasir Arafat, the PLO leader
in conjunction with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Johan Jorgen Holst.
On Mar. 15, 1993 Prime Minister Rabin met with the US President, Bill Clinton
that renewed cordial relations between the two countries following the
Bush administration's imposition of economic and political sanctions due
to the deliberate Israeli stalling of the peace process the year earlier.
During April to August 1993 while negotiations continually stalled in Washington,
Perez and his PLO counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, held secretive Norwegian-sponsored
talks in Oslo that resulted in the formation of a new order in Arab-Israeli
relations, although the pro-Iranian Hezbollah fundamentalists launch rocket
attacks on Israeli from southern Lebanon in the attempt to derail the entire
Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In response, Rabin ordered a massive
retaliatory attack that displaced some 300,000 Lebanese and followed suit
by revealing the existence of secret talks that led to the meeting on Sept.
13, 1993 in Washington where Rabin, Araft and US Pres. Bill Clinton shook
hands. The Declaration of Principles signed by Perez and Abbas outlined
the process and timetable for self-rule for the Palestinians and by the
end of Oct. 1993 the detailed negotiations for the implementation of the
Gaza-Jericho agreement and phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank
was underway. Following the accords coming into effect on Oct. 13, 1993
Israel announced its intention to release more than 10,000 Palestinians
held in Israeli jails and eased the Palestinian travel restrictions allowing
them to enter Jerusalem. In Dec. 1993 the remaining 200 exiled Palestinians
were allowed to return to Israel from Lebanon. Following the signing of
the Sept. 13 accords tensions increased throughout the occupied territories
with three Palestinians being assassinated while Israeli settlers of the
occupied territories began riots in protest. The Dec. 13, 1993 deadline
for meeting the accord didn't eventuate with the issues such as Israel's
insistence on controlling borders with Jordan and Egypt as well as the
question of the size of the Jericho area to be under Palestinian control
still being negotiated.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the New Sheqel (NIS) divided
into 100 New Agorot.
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $72,667,000,000 (1993).
Public Debt; USD $54,742,000,000 (1992). Imports; USD $23,701,100,000 (1994).
Exports; USD $17,005,700,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $2,110,000,000
(1993). Balance of Trade; USD -$6,695,400,000 (1994). Economically Active
Population; 2,019,200 or 37.1% of total population (1994). Unemployed;
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are the USA,
Germany, the UK, France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Bromine, Citrus Fruits, Cotton, Crude Oil,
Figs, Grapes, Livestock, Natural Gas, Olives, Phosphates, Potash, Sugar
Beets, Vegetables, Wheat.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Aircraft, Cement, Chemicals, Clothing,
Diamond Cutting, Electrical Equipment, Fertilizers, Food Processing, Leather
Goods, Machinery, Metal Products, Mining, Textiles, Transport Equipment.
MAIN EXPORTS: Chemicals, Fertilizers, Finished Diamonds, Fruit and
Vegetables, Machinery, Textiles.
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 520 km (323 mi) (1990), passenger-km
152,660,000 (94,858,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km 1,037,600,000
(710,652,000 short ton-mi) (1989). Roads; length 12,996 km (8,075 mi) (1989).
Vehicles; cars 778,000 (1989), trucks and buses 149,000 (1989). Merchant
Marine; vessels 58 (1990), deadweight tonnage 529,540 (1990). Air Transport;
passenger-km 7,719,000,000 (4,796,000,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo ton-km
898,514,000 (615,392,000 short ton-mi) (1989).
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 31 with a total circulation
of 2,250,000 (1991). Radio; receivers 2,250,000 (1991). Television; receivers
1,200,000 (1991). Telephones; units 1,958,100 (1993).
MILITARY: 172,000 (1995) total active duty personnel with 77.9%
army, 3.5% navy and 18.6% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 9.4% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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