OFFICIAL NAME: State of Israel
CAPITAL: Jerusalem
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Multiparty Republic
AREA: 20,770 Sq Km (8,019 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION 5,955,000


Direct Link to Political MapDirect Link to Physical MapLOCATION & 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) in August.


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 births (1992).


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; 7.8% (1994).


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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