Facts about Israel

World Facts Index > Israel > Jerusalem

JerusalemFollowing 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. In addition, on 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. In April 2003, US President BUSH, working in conjunction with the EU, UN, and Russia - the "Quartet" - took the lead in laying out a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005, based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. However, progress toward a permanent status agreement was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between September 2003 and February 2005. An Israeli-Palestinian agreement reached at Sharm al-Sheikh in February 2005, along with an internally-brokered Palestinian ceasefire, significantly reduced the violence. In the summer of 2005, Israel 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 in January 2006 to head the Palestinian Legislative Council froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ehud OLMERT became prime minister in March 2006; following an Israeli military operation in Gaza in June-July 2006 and a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006, he shelved plans to unilaterally evacuate from most of the West Bank. OLMERT in June 2007 resumed talks with the PA after HAMAS seized control of the Gaza Strip and PA President Mahmoud ABBAS formed a new government without HAMAS.

Geography of Israel

Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
31 30 N, 34 45 E
total: 20,770 sq km
water: 440 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries:
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
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 NM
temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
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
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 242 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 (February 2002 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source

More Geography

Population of Israel

note: includes about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 26.3% (male 855,054/female 815,619)
15-64 years: 63.9% (male 2,044,135/female 2,016,647)
65 years and over: 9.8% (male 266,671/female 353,991)
Median age:
29.6 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
6.89 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.46 years
male: 77.33 years
female: 81.7 years
Fertility rate:
2.41 children born/woman
noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli
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.)
Jewish 76.5%, Muslim 15.9%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2003)
Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.4%
male: 97.3%
female: 93.6% 


Country name:
conventional long form: State of Israel
local short form: Yisra'el
local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
Jerusalem; note - Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
Administrative divisions:
6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
National holiday:
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
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
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Shimon PERES (since 15 July 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Ehud OLMERT (since May 2006); Deputy Prime Minister Tzipora "Tzipi" LIVNI; note - Prime Minister OLMERT resigned on 17 September 2008, but will serve as acting prime minister until a new government is formed
cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset
elections: president is 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 assigns a Knesset member - traditionally the leader of the largest party - the task of forming a governing coalition.
Legislative branch:
unicameral Knesset (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed for life by the president)


Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial, though diminishing, 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 imports substantial quantities of grain but is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable trade 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, its major source of economic and military aid. Israel's GDP, after contracting slightly in 2001 and 2002 due to the Palestinian conflict and troubles in the high-technology sector, has grown by about 5% per year since 2003. The economy grew an estimated 5.4% in 2007, the fastest pace since 2000. The government's prudent fiscal policy and structural reforms over the past few years have helped to induce strong foreign investment, tax revenues, and private consumption, setting the economy on a solid growth path.

$185.8 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 2.6%
industry: 31.7%
services: 65.7%
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
2.42 million
Labor force - by occupation:
public services 31.2%, manufacturing 20.2%, finance and business 13.1%, commerce 12.8%, construction 7.5%, personal and other services 6.4%, transport, storage, and communications 6.2%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 2.6%
revenues: $43.82 billion
expenditures: $58.04 billion
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 99.9%
hydro: 0.1%
other: 0% 
nuclear: 0%
high-technology projects (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
citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Export partners:
US 36.7%, Belgium 7.5%, Hong Kong 4.2% 
raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, consumer goods
Import partners:
US 17.9%, Belgium 9%, Germany 6.5%, Switzerland 6%, UK 5.4%, China 4.2% 
new Israeli shekel (ILS); note - NIS is the currency abbreviation; ILS is the International Organization for Standarization (ISO) code for the NIS

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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