|General background: 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 occupied by Israel 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.
Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan
were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty
of Peace. In keeping with the framework established
at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral
negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian
representatives (from the Israeli-occupied West Bank
and Gaza Strip) and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement;
however, these efforts were derailed/postponed by the
outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in September
2000. On 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from
southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than
Climate: Temperate; hot and
dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central
mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Population: 6,029,529 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Jewish 80.1% (Europe/America-born
32.1%, Israel-born 20.8%, Africa-born 14.6%, Asia-born
12.6%), non-Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab) (1996 est.)
Religions: Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (mostly
Sunni Muslim), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.)
Language: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially
for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign
Government type: Parliamentary democracy
Capital: Jerusalem; note - Israel proclaimed
Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like
nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy
in Tel Aviv.
Legal system: Mixture of English common law,
British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters,
Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December
1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would
no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: Israel has a technologically
advanced market economy with substantial government
participation. It depends on imports of crude oil,
grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite
limited natural resources, Israel has intensively
developed its agricultural and industrial sectors
over the past 20 years. Israel is largely self-sufficient
in food production except for grains. Cut diamonds,
high-technology equipment, and agricultural products
(fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel
usually posts sizable current account deficits, which
are covered by large transfer payments from abroad
and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government's
external debt is owed to the US, which is its major
source of economic and military aid. The influx of
Jewish immigrants from the former USSR during the
period 1989-99 coupled with the opening of new markets
at the end of the Cold War, energized Israel's economy,
which grew rapidly in the early 1990s. But growth
began moderating in 1996 when the government imposed
tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration
bonus petered out. Growth was a strong 6.4% in 2000.
But the outbreak of Palestinian unrest in late September
2000 and the declines in the high-technology and tourist
sectors led to a 0.6% drop in GDP in 2001.
Communication/Telephone system: Most highly
developed system in the Middle East although not the
Places of interest: Biblical historian's paradise.
Travel tips: The situation in Israel and the
Palestinian Territories remains volatile and dangerous.
Palestinian suicide bombings continue unabated, killing
civilians and creating an atmosphere of fear. The
bombings are often followed by incursions of Israeli
troops into Palestinian towns. Their stated purpose
is to seek out militants, but civilians are also killed
in these operations.