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Country Profiles: Israel


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

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.
Location
Map of Israel
Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Area total: 20,770 sq km
water: 440 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
Area - comparative slightly smaller than New Jersey
Climate temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use arable land: 17%
permanent crops: 4%
other: 79% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes
Environment - current issues limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides
Geography - note there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 25 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2001 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Population 6,029,529 (July 2002 est.)
note: includes about 182,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, fewer than 7,000 in the Gaza Strip, and about 176,000 in East Jerusalem (August 2001 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 27.1% (male 837,491; female 798,695)
15-64 years: 63% (male 1,905,677; female 1,889,525)
65 years and over: 9.9% (male 257,066; female 341,075) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 1.48% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 7.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 78.86 years
female: 81.01 years (2002 est.)
male: 76.82 years
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.)
Languages Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
male: 97%
female: 93% (1992 est.)
Government type parliamentary democracy
Capital Jerusalem;
note - Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the U.S., like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
Independence 14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
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
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description 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

Flag of Israel
Economy - 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 U.S., 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.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $20,000 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line NA%
Labor force 2.4 million (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate 9% (2001 est.)
Industries high-technology projects (including aviation, communications, computer-aided design and manufactures, medical electronics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, diamond cutting
Agriculture - products citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
Exports - commodities machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Imports - commodities raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, consumer goods

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