Israel Country Profile

Israel, republic of the Middle East, founded in 1948, located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is limited to the north with Lebanon, to the northeast with Syria, to the east with Jordan and to the southwest with Egypt. Its southernmost end extends to the Gulf of Aqaba, an extension of the Red Sea. It has 21,946 km2, encompassing the eastern part of the city of Jerusalem, the capital, annexed by Israel in 1967, after the Six Day War, although most of the international community does not recognize this annexation.


According to, Israel can be divided into five major areas: the mountains of Galilee, the plains of Esdrelom, the hills of Judea and Samaria, the coastal plains and the Negev region. The most important river is the Jordan, along with Lake Tiberias, also known as the Sea of ​​Galilee, the main freshwater lake. The climate is subtropical, with rains that are concentrated in the winter months.


Although 83% of the inhabitants are Jewish, in Israel there is great racial, ethnic and cultural diversity. More than half of the Jews were born in the country (called sabras), however their immediate ancestors came from more than 100 different countries, speaking about 85 languages ​​or dialects. The most important groups are the Ashkenazites and the Sephardim. In 1994, the population was 5,460,900 inhabitants, with a density of 248 inhabitants / km2. Non-Jews made up 17% of the total population, Muslims are the majority, followed by Christians and Druze.

In 1992, the most important cities had the following population: Jerusalem with 556,500 inhabitants, comprising the old city, Tel Aviv with 356,900 inhabitants and Haifa with 251,000 inhabitants. Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages. Many speak English, Yiddish, Russian or several European languages. Israel is a republic composed of a parliament. The state does not have a written constitution, but a number of laws passed by Parliament (Knesset). The head of state is the president and his powers are extremely limited. The main executive body is a cabinet led by the prime minister. The legislative body is a unicameral system.


The deficit of the State is due to investments in the military area and the absorption of a high number of immigrants. The national currency is the new shekel. Agriculture covers approximately three quarters of the population’s food needs, products for export are exploited, especially citrus and eggs. Agricultural communities are divided according to their organization into three types: collective communities (kibbutz), cooperative peoples (moshav) and smallholder communities (moshava). The main minerals are potassium, bromine, magnesium and others that are extracted from the Dead Sea salt deposits. The main industrial products are: food, olive oil, beverages, tobacco, chemicals, oil and coal products, metallurgy and textiles.


Israel’s modern history began when Theodor Herzl started the Zionist movement in Basel (Switzerland) in 1897. The ideological foundation of the State, most of its political parties and institutions and the individuals who established them, comes from the Zionist movement, which adopted as the main objective to create “for the Jewish people a homeland in Palestine, reinforced by public law”. Support for the Zionist movement was mainly given by Jews from Europe and the United States. During World War I (1914-1918), the Zionist movement won support from Great Britain, which in turn sought support from the Jewish people in their struggle against Germany.

The British government expressed its intentions in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. According to this document, the British government would approve the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. After World War I, the provisions of the Balfour Declaration were included in the Mandate of Palestine which had been supported by the Society of Nations in 1922. During the period of the British mandate, large settlements of Jews were registered. The Jewish community, Ishuv, multiplied a lot during this period, mainly in the 1930s, when a large number of Jews fled Nazi persecutions in Europe. After the Holocaust, Zionist leaders stepped up their demands to achieve self-government and facilitate immigration to Palestine. ”

In Palestine, Ishuv adhered to this stance trying to favor refugee immigrants who came from a war-torn Europe. In 1947, Great Britain decided to abandon Palestine and turned to the United Nations (UN). In response, the UN adopted a Partition plan that envisaged the division of Palestine into two states, an Arab and a Jewish one, with Jerusalem as an international zone under its jurisdiction. In Palestine, Arab protests against the partition exploded with great violence. However, on May 14, 1948, the Provisional State Congress proclaimed the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, which would be called Medinat Israel (State of Israel) and which would be open to receive all Jews scattered throughout the world.

The armies of Egypt, Transjordan (Jordan since January 1949), Syria, Lebanon and Iraq joined the Palestinians. The confrontation reached international connotations. During the first Arab-Israeli war, the Arabs could not prevent the creation of the Jewish state and the conflict ended the armistice that the UN directed. The agreements provided for an extension of the territory under Israel’s control, beyond the limits set by the UN division. In the Gaza Strip, border between Egypt and Israel, Egyptian occupation was maintained and Jordan was annexed to the West Bank. In 1949, the Provisional State Council of Israel, called the elections to elect the first Knesset. Chaim Weizmann was the country’s first president. The first head of government was David Ben-Gurion. All attempts to secure a permanent peace treaty between Arabs and Israelis have failed. Egypt denied permission for Israeli boats to use the Suez Canal and blocked the Strait of Tiran (Israel’s access to the Red Sea), a fact that Israel considered as an aggression.

Border clashes with Egypt spawned the Second Arab-Israeli War. Britain and France joined the attack because of friction with Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had just nationalized the Suez Canal. Israel won a quick victory and conquered the Gaza strip and the Sinai peninsula. At the end of that year, Israeli troops withdrew from Egypt, but Israel refused to leave Gaza until the beginning of 1957. After the Second Israeli-Arab War, the image of Egyptian President Nasser was strengthened throughout the Arab world, who witnessed the growth of a nationalist environment wishing to retaliate against Israel. The formation of a unified military command, which concentrated its troops on the borders, caused Israel to attack Egypt, Jordan and Syria simultaneously.

The Six Day War ended Israel’s victory. After the war, Israel seized the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the Arab part of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The government formally united East Jerusalem and the city’s Jewish sector, just days after the war ended. After the war, there was an increase in Palestinian nationalist sentiment. Several guerrilla organizations of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (PLO) have committed terrorist acts with the aim of “liberating Palestine”.

The group achieved UN recognition as “the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians”. In 1973, Egypt and Syria joined together during the Yom Kippur War against Israel to recover the territories they had lost in 1967. The Israeli army defeated its enemies but in return the Arab forces obtained support from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and most developing countries. The oil-producing Arab states have embarked on an embargo on their oil exports to the United States and other Western states, in retaliation for their aid to Israel. Henry Alfred Kissinger, negotiated the peace accords. In 1974, he obtained the military withdrawal of Israel and Egypt (Sinai peninsula), Israel and Syria (Golan Heights).

The Yom Kippur war was followed by many disturbances in Israel and constant criticism of its political leaders. General discontent led to the dismissal of Prime Minister Golda Meir and her cabinet in 1974. She was replaced by Yitzhak Rabin, who was unable to stop inflation and the deteriorating economy. In the 1977 elections, Menahem Begin, the new prime minister, led the Likud movement, which was a faction made up of nationalist groups that opposed any territorial concession to the Arabs. Begin was Israel’s first leader to sign a peace agreement with an Arab state. This was the result of a surprise initiative by the President of Egypt, Anwar al-Sadat, who in 1977 went to Knesset and asked Begin to start peace talks.

The annexation of the Golan Heights, which took place in 1981, hampered Israel’s relations with the countries that previously supported it. Despite these events and the complications brought about by the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat, Israel definitively withdrew from the Sinai peninsula in April 1982. Two months later, Israel invaded Lebanon with the aim of ending the PLO, which had many military bases from which it carried out numerous attacks against Israel. In mid-August the PLO left Lebanon. In the late 1980s, the appearance of the intifada and the government of Israel, generated criticism on the part of the United States and the UN. Begin announced his resignation as prime minister and head of Likud in 1983, being succeeded by Yitzhak Shamir. In the 1984 elections, Labor and Likud formed a government of national unity. Shimon Peres,

Events took an unexpected turn in 1993. Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and PLO President Yasser Arafat met in the city of Washington and sealed a historic peace treaty. Israel allowed the creation of an autonomous government in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank areas, where there were no Jews. The Gaza strip came under the autonomy of the Palestinian authorities. In July 1994, Prime Minister Rabin and King Husein of Jordan signed a peace treaty ending 46 years of fighting between both states. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995 by a Jew belonging to a far-right group. In the 1996 elections, right-wing candidate Benjamin Netanyahu won.

Israel Country Profile