Israel

ISRAEL

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Israel Wikipedia



This article is about the modern country. For other uses, see Israel (disambiguation).
Coordinates: 31°N 35°E / 31°N 35°E / 31; 35
State of Israel
  • מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Hebrew)
  • دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل (Arabic)
Centered blue star within a horizontal tribandCentered menorah surrounded by two olive branches
FlagCoat of Arms
Anthem: "Hatikvah" (Hebrew)


"The Hope"


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Projection of Asia with Israel in green
Capital


and largest city
Emblem of Jerusalem.svg Jerusalem (disputed)


31°47′N 35°13′E / 31.783°N 35.217°E / 31.783; 35.217
Official languages
  • Hebrew
  • Arabic
Ethnic groups (2013)
  • 75.3% Jewish
  • 20.7% Arab
DemonymIsraeli
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
 - PresidentShimon Peres
 - Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu
 - President-electReuven Rivlin
LegislatureKnesset
Independence from Mandatory Palestine
 - Declared14 May 1948 
 - Recognition1 May 1949 
Area
 - Total20,770 / 22,072 (153rd) km2


8,019 / 8,522 sq mi
 - Water (%)2.12 (440 km2 / 170 mi2)
Population
 - 2014 estimate8,146,300 (96th)
 - 2008 census7,412,200 (99th)
 - Density387.63/km2 (34th)


1,004.00/sq mi
GDP (PPP)2014 estimate
 - Total$286.840 billion
 - Per capita$35,658 (25)
GDP (nominal)2014 estimate
 - Total$305. 707 billion
 - Per capita$38,004 (25)
Gini (2008)39.2


medium · 66th
HDI (2013)Increase 0.900


very high · 16th
CurrencyIsraeli new shekel (₪‎) (ILS)
Time zoneIsrael Standard Time (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST)Israel Summer Time (UTC+3)
Date format
  • dd-mm-yyyy (CE)
Drives on theright
Calling code+972
ISO 3166 codeIL
Internet TLD.il
Israel /ˈɪzreɪəl/, officially the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Medīnat Yisrā'el, IPA: [mediˈnat jisʁaˈʔel] ( listen); Arabic: دولة إِسرائيل‎, Dawlat Isrāʼīl, IPA: [dawlat ʔisraːˈʔiːl]), is a country in Western Asia, on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories (or State of Palestine) comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the east and southwest respectively, Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south, and it contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. In its Basic Laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State; it is the world's only Jewish-majority state.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine. On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared "the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel," a state independent upon the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine, 15 May 1948. Neighboring Arab armies invaded Palestine on the next day and fought the Israeli forces. Israel has since fought several wars with neighboring Arab states, in the course of which it has occupied the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula (between 1967 and 1982), part of South Lebanon (between 1982 and 2000), Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. It annexed portions of these territories, including East Jerusalem, but the border with the West Bank is disputed. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have so far not resulted in peace.

Israel's financial center is Tel Aviv, while Jerusalem is the country's most populous city and its designated capital, though internationally Jerusalem is not considered to be a part of Israel.[note 1]

The population of Israel, as defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, was estimated in 2014 to be 8,146,300 people, of whom 6,110,600 are Jewish. The country's second largest group are designated as Arabs, with 1,686,000 people (including the Druze and most East Jerusalem Arabs). The great majority of Israeli Arabs are settled Muslims, with smaller but significant numbers of semi-settled Negev Bedouins; the rest are Christians and Druze. Other minorities include Maronites, Samaritans, Black Hebrew Israelites, other Sub-Saharan Africans, Armenians, Circassians, Roma and others. Israel also hosts a significant population of non-citizen foreign workers and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.

Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system, proportional representation and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's unicameral legislative body. Israel is a developed country and an OECD member, with the 43rd-largest economy in the world by nominal gross domestic product as of 2012. Israel has the highest standard of living in the Middle East and the third highest in Asia, and among the highest life expectancies in the world.

Contents

            Etymology




            The Merneptah Stele. While alternative translations exist, the majority of biblical archeologists translate a set of hieroglyphs as "Israel", representing the first instance of the name Israel in the historical record.
            Upon independence in 1948, the country formally adopted the name "State of Israel" (Medinat Yisrael) after other proposed historical and religious names including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel"), Zion, and Judea, were considered and rejected. In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term "Israeli" to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.

            The names Land of Israel and Children of Israel have historically been used to refer to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish nation respectively. The name "Israel" in these phrases refers to the patriarch Jacob (Standard Yisraʾel, Isrāʾīl; Septuagint Greek: Ἰσραήλ Israēl; "struggle with God") who, according to the Hebrew Bible was given the name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord. Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel. Jacob and his sons had lived in Canaan but were forced by famine to go into Egypt for four generations until Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob, led the Israelites back into Canaan during the "Exodus". The earliest archaeological artifact to mention the word "Israel" is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BCE).

            The area is also known as the Holy Land, being holy for all Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith. From 1920 the whole region was known as Palestine (under British Mandate) until the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948. Through the centuries, the territory was known by a variety of other names, including Judea, Samaria, Southern Syria, Syria Palaestina, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Iudaea Province, Coele-Syria, Retjenu, and Canaan.

            History

            Main article: History of Israel

            Antiquity

            Further information: History of ancient Israel and Judah



            The United Kingdom of Israel, 11th century BCE
            The notion of the "Land of Israel", known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been important and sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times. According to the Torah, God promised the land to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people. On the basis of scripture, the period of the three Patriarchs has been placed somewhere in the early 2nd millennium BCE, and the first Kingdom of Israel was established around the 11th century BCE. Subsequent Israelite kingdoms and states ruled intermittently over the next four hundred years, and are known from various extra-biblical sources.

            The northern Kingdom of Israel, as well as Philistine city-states, fell in 722 BCE, though the southern Kingdom of Judah and several Phoenician city-states continued their existence as the region came under Assyrian rule. With the emergence of Babylonians, Judah was eventually conquered as well in the year 586 BCE.

            Classical period




            Treasures, including the Menorah, carried in a Roman triumph after the 70 CE Siege of Jerusalem (original relief from the Arch of Titus, Rome).
            With successive Persian rule, the region, divided between Syria-Coele province and later the autonomous Yehud Medinata, was gradually developing back into urban society, largely dominated by Judeans. The Greek conquests largely skipped the region without any resistance or interest. Incorporated into Ptolemaic and finally Seleucid Empires, southern Levant was heavily hellenized, building the tensions between Judeans and Greeks. The conflict erupted in 167 BCE with the Maccabean Revolt, which succeeded in establishing an independent Hasmonean Kingdom in Judah, which later expanded over much of modern Israel, as the Seleucids gradually lost control in the region.

            The Roman Empire invaded the region in 63 BCE, first taking control of Syria, and then intervening in the Hasmonean civil war. The struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Parthian factions in Judea eventually led to the installation of Herod the Great and consolidation of the Herodian Kingdom as a vassal Judean state of Rome.



            Kfar Bar'am, an ancient Jewish village, abandoned some time between the 7th-13th centuries AD.
            With the decline of Herodians, Judea, transformed into a Roman province, became the site of a violent struggle of Jews against Greco-Romans, culminating in the Jewish-Roman Wars, ending in wide-scale destruction, expulsions, and genocide. Jewish presence in the region significantly dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE. Nevertheless, there was a continuous small Jewish presence and Galilee became its religious center. The Mishnah and part of the Talmud, central Jewish texts, were composed during the 2nd to 4th centuries CE in Tiberias and Jerusalem. The region came to be populated predominantly by Greco-Romans on the coast and Samaritans in the hill-country. Christianity was gradually evolving over Roman paganism, when the area under Byzantine rule was transformed into Deocese of the East, as Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda provinces. Through the 5th and 6th centuries, dramatic events of Samaritan Revolts reshaped the land, with massive destruction to Byzantine Christian and Samaritan societies and a resulting decrease of the population. After the Persian conquest and the installation of a short-lived Jewish Commonwealth in 614 CE, the Byzantine Empire reinstalled its rule in 625 CE, resulting in further decline and destruction.

            Middle Ages




            Beit Knesset Abuhav, is a 15th-century synagogue in Safed, Israel.
            In 635 CE, the region, including Jerusalem, was conquered by Arabs. It remained under Muslim control and predominately Muslim occupancy for the next 1300 years. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Crusaders throughout the next six centuries, before the area was conquered in 1260 by the Mamluk Sultanate.

            In 1516, the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire; it remained under Turkish rule until the end of the First World War, when Britain defeated the Ottoman forces and set up a military administration across the former Ottoman Syria. In 1920 the territory was divided under the mandate system, and the area which included modern day Israel was named Mandatory Palestine.

            Zionism and the British mandate

            Further information: Zionism, Mandate for Palestine, Balfour Declaration and Aliyah
            Since the Diaspora, some Jews have aspired to return to "Zion" and the "Land of Israel", though the amount of effort that should be spent towards such an aim was a matter of dispute. The hopes and yearnings of Jews living in exile were articulated in the Hebrew Bible, and are an important theme of the Jewish belief system. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, some communities settled in Palestine. During the 16th century, Jewish communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities—Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed—and in 1697, Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid led a group of 1,500 Jews to Jerusalem. In the second half of the 18th century, Eastern European opponents of Hasidism, known as the Perushim, settled in Palestine.
            Black and white portrait of a long-bearded man.


            Theodor Herzl, visionary of the Jewish State
            The first wave of modern Jewish migration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. Although the Zionist movement already existed in practice, Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), offering his vision of a future Jewish state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

            The Second Aliyah (1904–14), began after the Kishinev pogrom; some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine, although nearly half of them left eventually. Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, although the Second Aliyah included socialist groups who established the kibbutz movement. During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that stated that Britain intended for the creation of a Jewish homeland within the Palestinian Mandate.

            The Jewish Legion, a group primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine in 1917. Arab opposition to British rule and Jewish immigration led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of a Jewish militia known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi, or Stern Gang, paramilitary groups later split off. In 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration. The population of the area at this time was predominantly Arab and Muslim, with Jews accounting for about 11%, Christians 9.5%.

            The Third (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyahs (1924–1929) brought an additional 100,000 Jews to Palestine. Finally, the rise of Nazism and the increasing persecution of Jews in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This was a major cause of the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to introduce restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine. By the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Palestine had increased to 33% of the total population.

            Independence and first years

            Further information: Israeli Declaration of Independence
            After World War II, Britain found itself in fierce conflict with the Jewish community, as the Haganah joined Irgun and Lehi in an armed struggle against British rule. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees sought a new life far from their destroyed communities in Europe. The Yishuv attempted to bring these refugees to Palestine but many were turned away or rounded up and placed in detention camps in Atlit and Cyprus by the British. In 1947, the British government announced it would withdraw from Mandatory Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.

            On 15 May 1947, the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations resolved that a committee, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), be created "to prepare for consideration at the next regular session of the Assembly a report on the question of Palestine". In the Report of the Committee dated 3 September 1947 to the UN General Assembly, the majority of the Committee in Chapter VI proposed a plan to replace the British Mandate with "an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem ... the last to be under an International Trusteeship System". On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union as Resolution 181 (II). The Plan attached to the resolution was essentially that proposed by the majority of the Committee in the Report of 3 September 1947.

            The Jewish Agency, which was the recognized representative of the Jewish community, accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee of Palestine rejected it. On 1 December 1947, the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets. The Jews were initially on the defensive as civil war broke out, but gradually moved onto the offensive. The Palestinian Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled.
            A man reads a document to a small audience assembled before him. Behind him are two elongated flags bearing the Star of David and portrait of a bearded man in his forties.


            David Ben-Gurion proclaiming Israeli independence on 14 May 1948, below a portrait of Theodor Herzl
            On 14 May 1948, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, declared "the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel". The only reference in the text of the Declaration to the borders of the new state is the use of the term, Eretz-Israel.



            An example of Israel's first visas from1948
            The following day, the armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq—entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War; Saudi Arabia sent a military contingent to operate under Egyptian command; Yemen declared war but did not take military action. In the introduction to the cablegram from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to the UN Secretary-General of 15 May 1948, the Arab League gave reasons for its intervention, "On the occasion of the intervention of Arab States in Palestine to restore law and order and to prevent disturbances prevailing in Palestine from spreading into their territories and to check further bloodshed". After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. The United Nations estimated that more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled during the conflict from what would become Israel.



            Kibbutznikiyot (female Kibbutz members), during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Kibbutzim, or collective farming communities, played a pivotal role in establishing the new state.
            Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations by majority vote on 11 May 1949. In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics. One such policy, the One Million Plan, led to an an influx of Holocaust survivors and Jews from Arab and Muslim lands, many of whom faced persecution and expulsion from their original countries. Consequently, the population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958. During this period, food, clothes and furniture had to be rationed in what became known as the Austerity Period. Between 1948 and 1970, approximately 1,151,029 Jewish refugees relocated to Israel. Some arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot; by 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea that Israel could accept monetary compensation for the Holocaust.

            The immigrants came to Israel for differing reasons. Some believed in the Zionist ideology, while others moved to escape persecution. There were others that did it for the promise of a better life in Israel and a small number that were expelled from their homelands, such as British and French Jews in Egypt after the Suez Crisis. The refugees were often treated differently according to where they were from. Jews of European descent were considered critical to the strengthening and peopling of Israel, so they were generally allowed to enter Israel first and thus were given abandoned Arab houses to live in. On the other hand, Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries were viewed by many Ashkenazi Jews as lazy, poor, culturally and religiously backward, and a threat to established communal life in Israel and remained in transit camps for longer periods of time. During the 1950s, the standard of living gap between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews widened so much that tensions developed between the two groups. This tension first moved to hostility during the Wadi Salib riots in 1959; other instances of domestic turmoil would occur over the following decades.

            Immigration to Israel during the late 1940s and early 1950s was aided by the Israeli Immigration Department and the non-government sponsored Organization for Illegal Immigration, called Mossad le-aliyah bet. Both groups facilitated regular immigration logistics like arranging transportation, but the latter also engaged in clandestine operations in countries, particularly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where the lives of Jews were believed to be in danger and exit from those places was difficult. The Organization for Illegal Immigration continued to take part in immigration efforts until its disbanding in 1953.

            In the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, leading to several Israeli counter-raids. In 1950 Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping and tensions mounted as armed clashes took place along Israel's borders. In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at regaining control of the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Israel overran the Sinai Peninsula but was pressured to withdraw by the United Nations in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

            In the early 1960s, Israel captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and brought him to Israel for trial. The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust. Eichmann remains the only person executed after conviction by an Israeli civilian court.

            Conflicts and peace treaties

            Further information: Arab–Israeli conflict and Peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict



            Territory held by Israel:
              before the Six-Day War
              after the war
            The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982.
            Since 1964, Arab countries, concerned over Israeli plans to divert waters of the Jordan River into the coastal plain, had been trying to divert the headwaters to deprive Israel of water resources, provoking tensions between Israel on the one hand, and Syria and Lebanon on the other.

            According to the United Nations, since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, disputes over Palestinian water rights has been one of the most difficult conflicts to resolve through negotiations. Water resources have been confiscated for Israeli settlements in the Ghor, Palestinian pumps on the Jordan River destroyed or confiscated, and Palestinians prevented from using water from the Jordan River system or drilling new irrigation wells. However, Israel provided fresh water and allowed wells for irrigation at the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A final agreement over water rights has been postponed until final status arrangement negotiations between the two sides.

            Arab nationalists led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser refused to recognize Israel, and called for its destruction. By 1966, Israeli-Arab relations had deteriorated to the point of actual battles taking place between Israeli and Arab forces. In 1967, Egypt expelled UN peacekeepers, stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1957, and announced a partial blockade of Israel's access to the Red Sea. In May 1967 a number of Arab states began to mobilize their forces. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli. On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. In a Six-Day War, Israeli military superiority was clearly demonstrated against their more numerous Arab foes. Israel succeeded in capturing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem, and the 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories.

            Following the war, Israel faced much internal resistance from the Palestinians and Egyptian hostilities in the Sinai. Most important among the various Palestinian and Arab groups was the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), established in 1964, which initially committed itself to "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. The Israeli government responded with an assassination campaign against the organizers of the massacre, a bombing and a raid on the PLO headquarters in Lebanon.

            On 6 October 1973, as Jews were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The war ended on 26 October with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering significant losses. An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for failures before and during the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

            In July 1976 Israeli commandos carried out a rescue mission which succeeded in rescuing 102 hostages who were being held by Palestinian guerillas at Entebbe International Airport close to Kampala, Uganda.



            Operation Gazelle, Israel's ground maneuver, encircles the Egyptian Third Army, October 1973
            The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state. In the two years that followed, Sadat and Begin signed the Camp David Accords (1978) and the Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty (1979). Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

            On 11 March 1978, a PLO guerilla raid from Lebanon led to the Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 Israeli civilians were killed and 71 injured. Israel responded by launching an invasion of southern Lebanon to destroy the PLO bases south of the Litani River. Most PLO fighters withdrew, but Israel was able to secure southern Lebanon until a UN force and the Lebanese army could take over. The PLO soon resumed its policy of attacks against Israel. In the next few years, the PLO infiltrated the south and kept up a sporadic shelling across the border. Israel carried out numerous retaliatory attacks by air and on the ground.

            Meanwhile, Begin's government provided incentives for Israelis to settle in the occupied West Bank, increasing friction with the Palestinians in that area. The Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, passed in 1980, was believed by some to reaffirm Israel's 1967 annexation of Jerusalem by government decree, and reignited international controversy over the status of the city. No Israeli legislation has defined the territory of Israel and no act specifically included East Jerusalem therein. The position of the majority of UN member states is reflected in numerous resolutions declaring that actions taken by Israel to settle its citizens in the West Bank, and impose its laws and administration on East Jerusalem, are illegal and have no validity. In 1981 Israel annexed the Golan Heights, although annexation was not recognized internationally.

            On 7 June 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's sole nuclear reactor, which was under construction just outside Baghdad. Following a series of PLO attacks in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon that year to destroy the bases from which the PLO launched attacks and missiles into northern Israel. In the first six days of fighting, the Israelis destroyed the military forces of the PLO in Lebanon and decisively defeated the Syrians. An Israeli government inquiry – the Kahan Commission – would later hold Begin, Sharon and several Israeli generals as indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre. In 1985, Israel responded to a Palestinian terrorist attack in Cyprus by bombing the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone in southern Lebanon until 2000.

            The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987, with waves of uncoordinated demonstrations and violence occurring in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Over the following six years, the Intifada became more organised and included economic and cultural measures aimed at disrupting the Israeli occupation. More than a thousand people were killed in the violence. Responding to continuing PLO guerilla raids into northern Israel, Israel launched another punitive raid into southern Lebanon in 1988. Amid rising tensions over the Kuwait crisis, Israeli border guards fired into a rioting Palestinian crowd near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. 20 people were killed and some 150 injured. During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Scud missile attacks against Israel. Despite public outrage, Israel heeded US calls to refrain from hitting back and did not participate in that war.



            Bill Clinton watches Jordan's King Hussein (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (right) sign the Israel–Jordan peace treaty
            In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party called for compromise with Israel's neighbors. The following year, Shimon Peres on behalf of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The PLO also recognized Israel's right to exist and pledged an end to terrorism. In 1994, the Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel. Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the continuation of Israeli settlements and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions. Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks. Finally, while leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords.

            At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority. Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it. After the collapse of the talks and a controversial visit by Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the Second Intifada began, which was allegedly pre-planned by Yasser Arafat. Sharon became prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier, defeating the Intifada.

            In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross-border abduction of two Israeli soldiers precipitated the month-long Second Lebanon War. On 6 September 2007, Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria. In May 2008, Israel confirmed it had been discussing a peace treaty with Syria for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. However, at the end of the year, Israel entered another conflict as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed. The Gaza War lasted three weeks and ended after Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire. Hamas announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings. Despite neither the rocket launchings nor Israeli retaliatory strikes having completely stopped, the fragile ceasefire remained in order. In what it said was a response to more than a hundred Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities, Israel began an operation in Gaza on 14 November 2012, lasting eight days.

            Geography and climate

            Main articles: Geography of Israel and Wildlife of Israel



            A satellite image of Israel
            Israel is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank to the east, and Egypt and the Gaza strip to the southwest. It lies between latitudes 29° and 34° N, and longitudes 34° and 36° E.

            The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. However Israel is so narrow that the exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean is double the land area of the country. The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi), and the total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi). Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the inland fertile Jezreel Valley, mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel and toward the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to 57 percent of the nation's population. East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,039 mi) Great Rift Valley.



            Ramon Crater, a unique type of crater that can be found only in Israel and the Sinai peninsula



            The Sea of Galilee and Tiberias.
            The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. Further south is the Arabah, ending with the Gulf of Eilat, part of the Red Sea. Unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula are makhteshim, or erosion cirques. The largest makhtesh in the world is Ramon Crater in the Negev, which measures 40 by 8 kilometers (25 by 5 mi). A report on the environmental status of the Mediterranean basin states that Israel has the largest number of plant species per square meter of all the countries in the basin.

            Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The area of Beersheba and the Northern Negev has a semi-arid climate with hot summers, cool winters and fewer rainy days than the Mediterranean climate. The Southern Negev and the Arava areas have desert climate with very hot and dry summers, and mild winters with few days of rain. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C or 128.7 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern Jordan river valley.

            From May to September, rain in Israel is rare. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed various water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Israelis also take advantage of the considerable sunlight available for solar energy, making Israel the leading nation in solar energy use per capita (practically every house uses solar panels for water heating).

            Four different phytogeographic regions exist in Israel, due to the country's location between the temperate and the tropical zones, bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the desert in the east. For this reason the flora and fauna of Israel is extremely diverse. There are 2,867 known species of plants found in Israel. Of these, at least 253 species are introduced and non-native. There are 380 Israeli nature reserves.

            Politics

            Main articles: Politics of Israel and Israeli system of government
            See also: Criticism of the Israeli government



            The Knesset chamber, home to the Israeli parliament
            Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic republic with universal suffrage. A member of parliament supported by a parliamentary majority becomes the prime minister—usually this is the chair of the largest party. The prime minister is the head of government and head of the cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership of the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which in practice has resulted in coalition governments.

            Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset can dissolve a government earlier. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an uncodified constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws. The president of Israel is head of state, with limited and largely ceremonial duties.

            Media

            In 2014, Israel proper was ranked 96th of 180 according to Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index, 2nd below Kuwait (at 91) in the Middle East and North Africa region. The 2013 Freedom in the World annual survey and report by U.S.-based Freedom House, which attempts to measure the degree of democracy and political freedom in every nation, ranked Israel as the Middle East and North Africa's only free country.

            Legal system

            Main article: Israeli judicial system



            Supreme Court of Israel, Givat Ram, Jerusalem
            Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier is the Supreme Court, located in Jerusalem; it serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against the decisions of state authorities. Although Israel supports the goals of the International Criminal Court, it has not ratified the Rome Statute, citing concerns about the ability of the court to remain free from political impartiality.

            Israel's legal system combines three legal traditions: English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries. Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges. Administration of Israel's courts (both the "General" courts and the Labor Courts) is carried by the Administration of Courts, situated in Jerusalem. Both General and Labor courts are paperless courts: the storage of court files, as well as court decisions, are conducted electronically. Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel.

            Administrative divisions

            Main article: Districts of Israel


            A clickable map of Israel.
            About this image
            The State of Israel is divided into six main administrative districts, known as mehozot (מחוזות; singular: mahoz) – Center, Haifa, Jerusalem, North, Southern, and Tel Aviv Districts, as well as the Judea and Samaria Area in the West Bank. All of the Judea and Samaria Area and parts of the Jerusalem and North districts are not recognized internationally as part of Israel. Districts are further divided into fifteen sub-districts known as nafot (נפות; singular: nafa), which are themselves partitioned into fifty natural regions.
            DistrictMain citySub-districtPopulation
            NorthNazarethKinneret, Safed, Acre, Golan, Jezreel Valley1,242,100
            HaifaHaifaHaifa, Hadera880,000
            CenterRamlaRishon LeZion, Sharon (Netanya), Petah Tikva, Ramla, Rehovot1,770,200
            Tel AvivTel AvivBat Yam, Bnei Brak, Giv'atayim, Holon, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv1,227,000
            JerusalemJerusalemJerusalem910,300 (Including approximately 200,000 Israeli settlers and 208,000 Palestinians.)
            SouthBeershebaAshkelon, Beersheba1,053,600
            Judea and Samaria (West Bank)Modi'in IllitJudea and Samaria375,000 Israeli citizens‏‏
            For statistical purposes, the country is divided into three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv metropolitan area (population 3,206,400), Haifa metropolitan area (population 1,021,000), and Beer Sheva metropolitan area (population 559,700). Israel's largest municipality, both in population and area, is Jerusalem with 773,800 residents in an area of 126 square kilometres (49 sq mi) (in 2009). Israeli government statistics on Jerusalem include the population and area of East Jerusalem, which is widely recognized as part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation. Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon LeZion rank as Israel's next most populous cities, with populations of 393,900, 265,600, and 227,600 respectively.

            Israeli-occupied territories

            Main article: Israeli-occupied territories



            Map of Israel showing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights
            In 1967, as a result of the Six-Day War, Israel took control of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Israel also took control of the Sinai Peninsula, but returned it to Egypt as part of the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty. Between 1982 and 2000, Israel occupied part of southern Lebanon, in what was known as the Security Zone.

            Following Israel's capture of these territories and until this day, settlements (Jewish civilian communities) and military installations were built within each of them. Israel applied civilian law to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, incorporating them into its sovereign territory and granting their inhabitants permanent residency status and the choice to apply for citizenship. In contrast, the West Bank has remained under military occupation, and Palestinians in this area cannot become citizens. The Gaza Strip is independent of Israel with no Israeli military or civilian presence, but Israel continues to maintain control of its airspace and waters. The UN Security Council has declared the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem to be "null and void" and continues to view the territories as occupied. The International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations, asserted, in its 2004 advisory opinion on the legality of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier, that the lands captured by Israel in the Six-Day War, including East Jerusalem, are occupied territory.

            The status of East Jerusalem in any future peace settlement has at times been a difficult hurdle in negotiations between Israeli governments and representatives of the Palestinians, as Israel views it as its sovereign territory, as well as part of its capital. Most negotiations relating to the territories have been on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which emphasises "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war", and calls on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in return for normalization of relations with Arab states, a principle known as "Land for peace".

            The West Bank was annexed by Jordan in 1950, following the Arab rejection of the UN decision to create two states in Palestine. Only Britain recognized this annexation and Jordan has since ceded its claim to the territory to the PLO. The West Bank was occupied by Israel in 1967 during the Six-Day War. The population are mainly Palestinians, including refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From their occupation in 1967 until 1993, the Palestinians living in these territories were under Israeli military administration. Since the Israel–PLO letters of recognition, most of the Palestinian population and cities have been under the internal jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and only partial Israeli military control, although Israel has on several occasions redeployed its troops and reinstated full military administration during periods of unrest. In response to increasing attacks as part of the Second Intifada, the Israeli government started to construct the Israeli West Bank barrier. When completed, approximately 13% of the Barrier will be constructed on the Green Line or in Israel with 87% inside the West Bank.

            The Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt from 1948 to 1967 and then by Israel after 1967. In 2005, as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Israel removed all of its settlers and forces from the territory. Israel does not consider the Gaza Strip to be occupied territory and declared it a "foreign territory". That view has been disputed by numerous international humanitarian organizations and various bodies of the United Nations. Following June 2007, when Hamas assumed power in the Gaza Strip, Israel tightened its control of the Gaza crossings along its border, as well as by sea and air, and prevented persons from entering and exiting the area except for isolated cases it deemed humanitarian. Gaza has a border with Egypt and an agreement between Israel
            Source: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel )
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