Middle East :: Israel
(also see separate Gaza Strip and West Bank entries)

Introduction ::Israel

    Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. (The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted.) On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the "Oslo Accords") guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. Progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. Israel in 2005 unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS to head the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2006 Israel engaged in a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006 and a 23-day conflict with HAMAS in the Gaza Strip during December 2008 and January 2009. Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU formed a coalition in March 2009 following a February 2009 general election. Direct talks with the PA launched in September 2010 collapsed following the expiration of Israel's 10-month partial settlement construction moratorium in the West Bank.

Geography ::Israel

    Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
    31 30 N, 34 45 E
    total: 20,770 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 154
    land: 20,330 sq km
    water: 440 sq km
    slightly larger than New Jersey
    total: 1,017 km
    border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
    273 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
    temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
    Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
    lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
    highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
    timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
    arable land: 13.68%
    permanent crops: 3.69%
    other: 82.62% (2011)
    2,250 sq km (2004)
    1.78 cu km (2011)
    total: 1.95 cu km/yr (39%/6%/55%)
    per capita: 282.4 cu m/yr (2009)
    sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
    limited arable land and natural freshwater resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
    Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) is an important freshwater source; the Dead Sea is the second saltiest body of water in the world (after Lake Assal in Djibouti); there are about 355 Israeli civilian sites including about 145 small outpost communities in the West Bank, 41 sites in the Golan Heights, and 32 in East Jerusalem (2010 est.)

People and Society ::Israel

Government ::Israel

    conventional long form: State of Israel
    conventional short form: Israel
    local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
    local short form: Yisra'el
    parliamentary democracy
    name: Jerusalem
    geographic coordinates: 31 46 N, 35 14 E
    time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins Friday before the last Sunday in March; ends the first Sunday in October; note - if the end of DST falls on Rosh Hashanah, then the end of DST will fall on the first Monday after 1 October
    note: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
    6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
    14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
    Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May
    no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws of the parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law; note - since May 2003 the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee of the Knesset has been working on a draft constitution
    mixed legal system of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious laws
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; withdrew acceptance of ICCt jurisdiction in 2002
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President Shimon PERES (since 15 July 2007)
    head of government: Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU (since 31 March 2009)
    cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president largely a ceremonial role and is elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term (one-term limit); election last held 13 June 2007 (next to be held in 2014 but can be called earlier); following legislative elections, the president, in consultation with party leaders, assigns the task of forming a governing coalition to a Knesset member whom he or she determines is most likely to accomplish that task
    election results: Shimon PERES elected president; number of votes in first round - Shimon PERES 58, Reuven RIVLIN 37, Colette AVITAL 21; PERES elected president in second round with 86 votes (unopposed)
    unicameral Knesset (120 seats; political parties are elected by popular vote and assigned seats for members on a proportional basis; members serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 22 January 2013 (next to be held in 2017)
    election results: percent of vote by party - Likud-Ahi 23.3%, Yesh Atid 14.3%, Labor 11.4%, The Jewish Home 9.1%, SHAS 8.7%, United Torah Judaism 5.2%, The Movement 5%, Meretz 4.5%, United Arab List 3.6%, HADASH 3%, Balad 2.6%, Kadima 2.1%; other 7.2%; seats by party - Likud-Ahi 31, Yesh Atid 19, Labor 15, The Jewish Home 12, SHAS 11, United Torah Judaism 7, The Movement 6, Meretz 6, United Arab List 4, HADASH 4, Balad 3, Kadima 2
    note: Ehud BARAK and four others on 17 January 2011 split from the Labor Party and formed the Atzmaut (Independence) Party; the Labor Party holds 8 seats in the Knesset and the Independence Party holds 5 seats; Aztmaut did not submit a candidate list for the election on 22 January 2013
    highest court(s): Supreme Court ( consists of the chief justice and 14 judges)
    judge selection and term of office: judges selected by the Judicial Selection Committee, made up of all three branches of the government and chaired by the Minister of Justice; judges can serve up to mandatory retirement age of 70
    subordinate courts: district and magistrate courts; national and regional labor courts; special and religious courts
    Atzmaut (Independence) Party [Ehud BARAK]
    Balad [Jamal ZAHALKA]
    Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (HADASH) [Muhammad BARAKEH]
    Kadima [Shaul MOFAZ]
    Labor Party [Shelly YECHIMOVICH]
    Likud-Ahi [Binyamin NETANYAHU]
    National Union Uri ARIEL]
    SHAS [Eliyahu YISHAI]
    The Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi) [Naftali BENNETT]
    The Movement (Hatnuah) [Tzipora "Tzipi" LIVNI]
    The New Movement-Meretz [Haim ORON]
    United Arab List-Ta'al [Ibrahim SARSUR]
    United Torah Judaism or UTJ [Yaakov LITZMAN]
    Yesh Atid [Yair LAPID]
    Yisrael Beiteinu or YB [Avigdor LIEBERMAN]
    B'Tselem [Jessica MONTELL, Executive Director] monitors human rights abuses
    Peace Now [Yariv OPPENHEIMER, Secretary General] supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
    YESHA Council of Settlements [Danny DAYAN, Chairman] promotes settler interests and opposes territorial compromise
    Breaking the Silence [Yehuda SHAUL, Executive Director] collects testimonies from soldiers who served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
    BIS, BSEC (observer), CE (observer), CICA, EBRD, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW (signatory), OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, SELEC (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    chief of mission: Ambassador Michael B. OREN
    chancery: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 364-5500
    FAX: [1] (202) 364-5647
    consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco
    chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel B. SHAPIRO
    embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv 63903
    telephone: [972] (3) 519-7475
    FAX: [972] (3) 516-4390
    consulate(s) general: Jerusalem; note - an independent US mission, established in 1928, whose members are not accredited to a foreign government
    white with a blue hexagram (six-pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag; the basic design resembles a Jewish prayer shawl (tallit), which is white with blue stripes; the hexagram as a Jewish symbol dates back to medieval times
    Star of David
    name: "Hatikvah" (The Hope)

    lyrics/music: Naftali Herz IMBER/traditional, arranged by Samuel COHEN
    note: adopted 2004, unofficial since 1948; used as the anthem of the Zionist movement since 1897; the 1888 arrangement by Samuel COHEN is thought to be based on the Romanian folk song "Carul cu boi" (The Ox Driven Cart)

Economy ::Israel

    Israel has a technologically advanced market economy. Its major imports include crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and pharmaceuticals are among the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by tourism and other service exports, as well as significant foreign investment inflows. The global financial crisis of 2008-09 spurred a brief recession in Israel, but the country entered the crisis with solid fundamentals - following years of prudent fiscal policy and a resilient banking sector. The economy has recovered better than most advanced, comparably sized economies. In 2010, Israel formally acceded to the OECD. Israel's economy also has weathered the Arab Spring because strong trade ties outside the Middle East have insulated the economy from spillover effects. Natural gasfields discovered off Israel's coast during the past two years have brightened Israel''s energy security outlook. The Leviathan field was one of the world''s largest offshore natural gas finds this past decade, and production from the Tama field is expected to meet all of Israel''s natural gas demand beginning mid-2013. In mid-2011, public protests arose around income inequality and rising housing and commodity prices. The government formed committees to address some of the grievances but has maintained that it will not engage in deficit spending to satisfy populist demands.
    $252.8 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 51
    $245.2 billion (2011 est.)
    $234.4 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $240.9 billion (2012 est.)
    3.1% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 104
    4.6% (2011 est.)
    5% (2010 est.)
    $32,800 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    $32,600 (2011 est.)
    $31,800 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    19.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    19% of GDP (2011 est.)
    18.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 57.5%
    government consumption: 24.3%
    investment in fixed capital: 19.1%
    investment in inventories: 0.2%
    exports of goods and services: 37.4%
    imports of goods and services: -38.5%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 2.5%
    industry: 31.4%
    services: 66.1% (2012 est.)
    citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
    high-technology products (including aviation, communications, computer-aided design and manufactures, medical electronics, fiber optics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, construction, metals products, chemical products, plastics, diamond cutting, textiles, footwear
    4% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    3.606 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 98
    agriculture: 2%
    industry: 16%
    services: 82% (September 2008)
    6.9% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 74
    5.6% (2011 est.)
    note: Israel's poverty line is $7.30 per person per day (2007)
    lowest 10%: 2.5%
    highest 10%: 24.3% (2008)
    39.2 (2008)
    country comparison to the world: 66
    35.5 (2001)
    revenues: $63.54 billion
    expenditures: $73.65 billion (2012 est.)
    26.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 114
    -4.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 149
    73.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 33
    72.6% of GDP (2011 est.)
    calendar year
    1.7% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 32
    3.5% (2011 est.)
    2.75% (31 December 2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 112
    2.02% (31 December 2010 est.)
    5.14% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 149
    5.54% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $32.48 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 59
    $30.21 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $208.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    $195.7 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
    $192.3 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 41
    $178 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $145 billion (31 December 2011)
    country comparison to the world: 33
    $218.1 billion (31 December 2010)
    $182.1 billion (31 December 2009)
    -$2.579 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 146
    $1.873 billion (2011 est.)
    $61.45 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 53
    $64.19 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
    US 27.8%, Hong Kong 7.7%, UK 5.7%, Belgium 4.6%, China 4.3% (2012)
    $71.4 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 42
    $72.03 billion (2011 est.)
    raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, consumer goods
    US 12.9%, China 7.3%, Germany 6.3%, Switzerland 5.5%, Belgium 4.8% (2012)
    $75.91 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 28
    $74.87 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $94.34 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 50
    $104.7 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $75.94 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 45
    $66.59 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $74.75 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 31
    $70.74 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    new Israeli shekels (ILS) per US dollar -
    3.8559 (2012 est.)
    3.5781 (2011 est.)
    3.739 (2010 est.)
    3.93 (2009)
    3.588 (2008)

Energy ::Israel

Communications ::Israel

    3.5 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 46
    9.2 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 80
    general assessment: most highly developed system in the Middle East
    domestic: good system of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay; all systems are digital; four privately owned mobile-cellular service providers with countrywide coverage
    international: country code - 972; submarine cables provide links to Europe, Cyprus, and parts of the Middle East; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (2 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean) (2011)
    state broadcasting network, operated by the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), broadcasts on 2 channels, one in Hebrew and the other in Arabic; 5 commercial channels including a channel broadcasting in Russian, a channel broadcasting Knesset proceedings, and a music channel supervised by a public body; multi-channel satellite and cable TV packages provide access to foreign channels; IBA broadcasts on 8 radio networks with multiple repeaters and Israel Defense Forces Radio broadcasts over multiple stations; about 15 privately owned radio stations; overall more than 100 stations and repeater stations (2008)
    2.483 million (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 36
    4.525 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 51

Transportation ::Israel

    47 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 95
    total: 29
    over 3,047 m: 2
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 6
    914 to 1,523 m: 11
    under 914 m: 5 (2013)
    total: 18
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
    914 to 1,523 m: 3
    under 914 m:
    14 (2013)
    3 (2013)
    gas 763 km; oil 442 km; refined products 261 km (2013)
    total: 975 km
    country comparison to the world: 89
    standard gauge: 975 km 1.435-m gauge (2008)
    total: 18,566 km
    country comparison to the world: 115
    paved: 18,566 km (includes 449 km of expressways) (2011)
    total: 8
    country comparison to the world: 120
    by type: cargo 1, container 7
    registered in other countries: 48 (Bermuda 3, Georgia 1, Honduras 1, Liberia 34, Malta 3, Moldova 2, Panama 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 3) (2010)
    Ashdod, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa

Military ::Israel

Transnational Issues ::Israel

    West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement - permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a "seam line" separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank in August 2005; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab'a Farms area of Golan Heights); since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization headquartered in Jerusalem monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region
    refugees (country of origin): 37,347 (Eritrea); 10,743 (Sudan) (2012)
    stateless persons: 14 (2012)
    increasingly concerned about ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and, increasingly, from Jordan; money-laundering center