Israel

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{{Infobox Country | native_name = מדינת ישראל
Medīnat Yisrā'el
دولة إسرائيل
Dawlat Isrā'īl | conventional_long_name = State of Israel | common_name = Israel | image_flag = Flag of Israel.svg | image_coat = Israel-coa-medium.png | symbol_type= Coat of arms | national_motto = none | image_map = LocationIsrael.png | national_anthem = Hatikvah | official_languages = Hebrew, Arabic | capital = Jerusalem<ref name="capital">Jerusalem is the official capital, and the location of the presidential residence, government offices and the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. In 1980, the Knesset confirmed Jerusalem's status as the nation's "eternal and indivisible capital", by passing the Basic Law: Jerusalem — Capital of Israel. However, the United Nations disapproved of this designation and considers Tel Aviv as Israel's capital. The international community argues that Israel's capture of the eastern half of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War was in violation of international law, and that the final issue of the status of Jerusalem will be determined in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Therefore, nearly all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv (CIA Factbook). See the article on Jerusalem for more information.</ref> | latd=31|latm=47|latNS=N|longd=35|longm=13|longEW=E | government_type = Parliamentary democracy | leader_titles = President
Prime Minister | leader_names = Moshe Katsav
Ehud Olmert | largest_city = Jerusalem | area = 20,770 | areami² = 8,019 | area_rank = 150th | area_magnitude = 1 E10 | percent_water = ~2% | population_estimate = 7,005,400 | population_estimate_year = December 2005 | population_estimate_rank = 97th | population_census = 6,780,000 | population_census_year = 2003 | population_density = 333 | population_densitymi² = 862.5 | population_density_rank = 19th | GDP_PPP_year = 2005 | GDP_PPP = $163.45 billion | GDP_PPP_rank = 52nd | GDP_PPP_per_capita = $22,944 | GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 32nd | HDI_year = 2003 | HDI = 0.915 | HDI_rank = 23rd | HDI_category = high | sovereignty_type = Independence | established_events =  Declaration | established_dates = From the United Kingdom
14 May 1948 (05 Iyar 5708) | currency = New Israeli sheqel (₪) | currency_code = ILS | time_zone = UTC+2 | utc_offset = | time_zone_DST = UTC+3 | utc_offset_DST = | cctld = .il | calling_code = 972 }}

This article is about the country. For other meanings, see Israel (disambiguation).

The State of Israel (Hebrew: Template:AudioTemplate:HbrshvaTemplate:HbrdaletTemplate:HbrhiriqmTemplate:HbrnunTemplate:HbrpatahTemplate:Hbrtav Template:HbryodTemplate:HbrhiriqTemplate:Hbrsin.Template:HbrshvaTemplate:HbrreshTemplate:HbrqamazTemplate:HbralefTemplate:HbrzereTemplate:Hbrlamed}}; Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةْ إِسْرَائِيل, Dawlat Isrā'īl) is a country in Western Asia on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a parliamentary democracy and the world's only Jewish state.

Contents

Name and flag

The name "Israel" is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, where Jacob is renamed Israel after wrestling with a mysterious adversary ("a man", and later "God" according to Genesis 32:24–30; or "the angel", according to Hosea 12:4). Israel means "he who has wrestled with God". The nation fathered by Jacob, was then called "the children of Israel" or the "Israelites". The people are commonly called Jews after Jacob's son Judah, the ancient father of the tribe of King David's dynasty.

The Israeli flag is rooted in Jewish tradition. The white background symbolizes purity. The symbols on the flag are two stripes—one on the top and one on the bottom—and the Star of David emblem adorning the center. The stripes and blue color are inspired by the techeileth dye of the tallit (Jewish prayer shawl).

History

Template:Main

Historical roots

Template:See also The earliest known mention of the name 'Israel', probably referring to a group of people rather than to a place, is the Egyptian Merneptah Stele dated to about 1210 BCE. <ref name="stones">Template:Cite web</ref> For over 3,000 years, Jews have regarded the Land of Israel as their homeland, both as a Holy Land and as a Promised land. The land of Israel holds a special place in Jewish religious obligations, encompassing Judaism's most important sites — including the remains of the First and Second Temples, as well as the rites concerning those temples. <ref name="land">Template:Cite web</ref> Starting around 1200 BCE, a series of Jewish kingdoms and states existed intermittently in the region for more than a millennium.

Under Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and (briefly) Sassanian rule, Jewish presence in the province dwindled due to mass expulsions. In particular, the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Roman Empire resulted in the large-scale expulsion of Jews. It was during this time that the Romans gave the name Syria Palaestina to the geographic area, in an attempt to erase Jewish ties to the land. The Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in the region during this period. The Muslims conquered the land from the Byzantine Empire in 638 CE. The area was ruled by various Muslim states (interrupted by the rule of the Crusaders) before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517.

Zionism and Aliyah

Template:Israelis Template:Main articles The first wave of modern Jewish immigration to Israel, or Aliyah (עלייה) started in 1881 as Jews fled persecution, or followed the Socialist Zionist ideas of Moses Hess and others of "redemption of the soil". Jews bought land from Ottoman and individual Arab landholders. After Jews established agricultural settlements, tensions erupted between the Jews and Arabs.

Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), an Austrian Jew, founded the Zionist movement. In 1896, he published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), in which he called for the establishment of a national Jewish state. The following year he helped convene the first World Zionist Congress.

The establishment of Zionism led to the Second Aliyah (1904–1914) with the influx of around 40,000 Jews. In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration that "view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". In 1920, Palestine became a League of Nations mandate administered by Britain.

Jewish immigration resumed in third (1919–1923) and fourth (1924–1929) waves after World War I. Arab riots in Palestine of 1929 killed 133 Jews, including 67 in Hebron.

The rise of Nazism in 1933 led to a fifth wave of Aliyah. The Jews in the region increased from 11% of the population in 1922 to 30% by 1940. The subsequent Holocaust in Europe led to additional immigration from other parts of Europe. By the end of World War II, the number of Jews in Palestine was approximately 600,000.

In 1939, the British introduced a White Paper of 1939, which limited Jewish immigration over the course of the war to 75,000 and restricted purchase of land by Jews, perhaps in response to the Great Arab Uprising (1936-1939). The White Paper was seen as a betrayal by the Jewish community and Zionists, who perceived it as being in conflict with the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Arabs were not entirely satisfied either, as they wanted Jewish immigration halted completely. However, the White Paper guided British policy until the end of the term of their Mandate. Template:See also

Jewish Underground Groups

Template:Main As tensions grew between the Jewish and Arab populations, and with apparently no support from the British Mandate authorities, the Jewish community realized it would have to rely on itself for self-defense.

As a result of the 1921 Arab attacks, the Haganah was formed to protect Jewish settlements. The Haganah was mostly defensive in nature, which among other things caused several members to split off and form the Irgun (initially known as Hagana Beth) in 1931. The Irgun adhered to a much more active approach, which included murder and terrorism in retaliation to attacks and initiation of armed actions against the British, while the Haganah often preferred restraint. The Irgun's more militant nature also manifested itself in several planned terrorist attacks against Arabs, including civilians. A further split occurred when Avraham Stern left the Irgun to form Lehi, which unlike the Irgun refused any co-operation with the British, even during World War II, and was much more extreme in its methods.

These groups had an enormous impact on events in the period preceding the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, such as Aliya Beth-the clandestine immigration from Europe, the forming of the Israel Defense Forces, and the withdrawal of the British, as well as to a great degree forming the foundation of the political parties which exist in Israel today.

Establishment of the State

Image:Declaration of State of Israel 1948.jpg Template:Main In 1947, following increasing levels of violence by Jewish militant groups together with unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the Jewish and Arab populations, the British government decided to withdraw from the Palestine Mandate. The UN General Assembly approved the 1947 UN Partition Plan dividing the territory into two states, with the Jewish area having roughly 55% of the land, and the Arab area roughly 45%. Jerusalem was planned to be an international region administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status.

Immediately following the adoption of the Partition Plan by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947, David Ben-Gurion tentatively accepted the partition, while the Arab League rejected it. Several Arab attacks on Jewish civilians soon turned into widespread fighting between Arabs and Jews, this civil war being the first "phase" of the 1948 War of Independence.

On May 14 1948, before the expiry of the British Mandate of Palestine at midnight on May 15, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed.

War of Independence and migration

Template:Main Template:See also Following the State of Israel's establishment, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq joined the fighting and began the second phase of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From the north, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, were all but stopped relatively close to the borders. Jordanian forces, invading from the east, captured East Jerusalem and laid siege on the city's west. However, forces of the Haganah successfully stopped most invading forces, and Irgun forces halted Egyptian encroachment from the south. At the beginning of June, the UN declared a one-month cease fire during which the Israel Defense Forces were officially formed. After numerous months of war, a cease fire was declared in 1949 and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were instituted. Israel had gained an additional 26% of the Mandate territory west of the Jordan River. Jordan, for her part, held the large mountainous areas of Judea and Samaria, which became known as the West Bank. Egypt took control of a small strip of land along the coast, which became known as the Gaza Strip.

During and after the war, then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion set about establishing order by dismantling the Palmach and underground organizations like the Irgun and Lehi. Those two groups even were classified as terror organizations after the murder of a Swedish diplomat.

Most of the Arab population fled from the newly-created Jewish State. (Estimates of the final refugee count range from 600,000 to 900,000 with the official United Nations count at 711,000.<ref name="un">General Progress Report and Supplementary Report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Covering the Period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950, published by the United Nations Conciliation Commission, October 23, 1950. (U.N. General Assembly Official Records, Fifth Session, Supplement No. 18, Document A/1367/Rev. 1) The Committee believed the estimate to be "as accurate as circumstances permit", and attributed the higher number on relief to, among other things, "duplication of ration cards, addition of persons who have been displaced from area other than Israel-held areas and of persons who, although not displaced, are destitute".</ref>) The continuing conflict between Israel and the Arab world resulted in a lasting displacement that persists to this day.

Immigration of Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab lands doubled Israel's population within a year of independence. Over the following decade approximately 600,000 Mizrahi Jews, who fled or were expelled from surrounding Arab countries and Iran, migrated to Israel.

1950s and 1960s

Between 1954 and 1955, under Moshe Sharet as prime minister, the Lavon Affair, a failed attempt to bomb targets in Egypt, caused political shame in Israel. Compounding this, in 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, much to the chagrin of the United Kingdom and France. Following this and a series of Fedayeen attacks, Israel created a secret military alliance with those two European powers and declared war on Egypt. After the Suez Crisis, the three collaborators faced international condemnation, and Israel was forced to withdraw its forces from the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1955, Ben Gurion once again became prime minister and served as such until his final resignation in 1963. After that event, Levi Eshkol was appointed to the post.

In 1961, the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who had been largely responsible for the final solution, was captured and then tried in Israel. Eichmann became the only person ever sentenced to death by the Israeli courts.

Back on the political field, tensions once again arose between Israel and her neighbors in May 1967. Syria, Jordan, and Egypt had been hinting at war, and Egypt expelled UN Peacekeeping Forces from the Gaza Strip. Finally, Egypt closed the strategic Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels, which Israel deemed a casus belli for preemtively attacking Egypt on June 5. After the ensuing Six-Day War between Israel and her Arab neighbors, the Jewish State emerged triumphantly victorious. Israel had defeated the armies of three large Arab states and decimated their air forces. Territorially, Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights. The Green Line of 1949 became the administrative boundary between Israel and her Occupied Territories, also called Disputed Territories. However, Israel has spread its administrative domain to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But Israel has returned the Sinai to Egypt.

In 1969, hawkish Golda Meir, Israel's first and to date only female prime minister was elected.

See also: Positions on Jerusalem, Jerusalem Law, Golan Heights, and Israeli-occupied territories

1970s

Between 1968 and 1972, a period known as the War of Attrition, numerous scuffles erupted along the border between Israel and Syria and Egypt. Furthermore, in the early-1970s, Palestinian terror groups embarked on an unprecedented wave of attacks against Israel and Jewish targets in other countries. The climax of this wave occurred at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, when, in the Munich massacre, Palestinian terrorists held hostage and killed members of the Israeli delegation. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which agents of Mossad took out most of those who were involved in the massacre.

Finally, on October 6, 1973, on the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. However, despite the expected blow dealt to Israel by this attack, Egypt and Syria failed to accomplish their goal of regaining the territories lost in 1967. Yet after the war, a number of years of relative calm ensued, which fostered the environment in which Israel and Egypt could make peace.

In 1974, Yitzhak Rabin, with Meir's resignation, became Israel's fifth prime minister. Then, in the 1977 Knesset elections, the Ma'arach, the ruling party since 1948, created a storm by leaving the government. The new Likud party, led by Menachem Begin, became the new ruling party.

Then, in November of that year, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, making an historic visit to the Jewish State, spoke before the Knesset--the first recognition of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Following the visit, the two nations conducted negotiations which led to the signing of the Camp David Accords. In March 1979, Begin and Sadat signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Washington, DC. As laid out in the treaty, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and evacuated the settlements established there during the 1970s. It was also agreed to lend autonomy to Palestinians across the Green Line.

See also: War of Attrition, Munich Massacre, Yom Kippur War, Anwar Sadat, Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

1980s

On July 7, 1981, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osiraq in an attempt to foil Iraqi efforts at producing an atom bomb.

Once again, in 1982 Israel launched an attack against Lebanon, which had been embroiled in the Lebanese Civil War since 1975. The official reason for the attack was to defend Israel's northernmost settlements from terrorist attacks, which had been occurring frequently. However, after establishing a forty kilometer barrier zone, the IDF continued northward and even captured the capital, Beirut. Israeli forces expelled Palestinian Liberation Organization forces from the country, forcing the organization to relocate to Tunis. Unable to deal with the stress of the ongoing war, Prime Minister Begin resigned from his post in 1983 and was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir. Though Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, a buffer zone was maintained until May 2002 when Israel unilaterally returned to Lebanon.

The rest of the 1980s were spent constantly shifting from the right, led by Yitzhak Shamir, to the left under Shimon Peres. Peres, for example, was prime minister from 1984, but handed the position over to Shamir in 1986. The First Intifadah then broke out in 1987 and was accompanied by waves of violence in the Occupied Territories. Following the outbreak, Shamir once again was elected prime minister in 1988.

See also: 1982 Lebanon War, Lebanese Civil War, and PLO

1990s

During the Gulf War, Israel was hit by a number of Iraqi missiles, which were intended to coerce Israel into declaring war. However, under American pressure, Israel did not give in to the attempts, which killed only two Israeli citizens.

Following the war the US pressured the sides in the Middle East conflict to open multilateral peace talks. The Madrid peace conference opened in March 1991. Far right parties saw the process as a grave mistake and toppled the Shamir government, bringing about the 1992 elections.

The early nineties were marked by a beginning of a massive influx of Soviet Jews, who, according to the Law of Return, were entitled to become Israeli citizens upon arrival. About 380,000 arrived in 1990-91 alone. Although initially favoring the right, the new immigrants became the target of an aggressive election campaign by the Labor, which blamed their employment and housing problems on the ruling Likud. As a result, in the 1992 elections they voted en masse for the Labor, thus giving the left a critical edge for achieving a 61:59 majority in the 1992 Knesset elections.

Following the elections Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister forming a left-wing government coalition. During the election campaign his Labor party had promised Israelis a significant improvement in personal security and achievement of a comprehensive peace with the Arabs "within 6-9 months" after the elections. The government opened in a series of gestures branded "trust building steps", which failed to produce any progress. As citizens' personal security rapidly deteriorated, Rabin's ratings slipped. By the end of 1993 the government abandoned the stillborn framework of Madrid and signed groundbreaking Oslo Accords with the PLO. In 1994 Jordan became the second of Israel's neighbors to make peace with it.

The initial wide public support for the Oslo Accords began to wane as Israel was struck by an unprecedented theretofore wave of terror, orchestrated by the militant Hamas group, which opposed the accords. The public support slipped even further as Israelis increasingly came to believe that the agreement had been signed by Arafat in bad faith, following his and other top PLO officials' praise of Hamas' actions and other inflammatory statements, as well as their failure to rein in the militants.

The growing public discontent with the government foreign policy combined with Rabin's failure to conduct a dialog with the opposition gave rise to hostility directed at him personally. On November 4, 1995 he was assassinated by a Jewish radical named Yigal Amir.

Public dismay with the assassination created a backlash against Oslo opponents and significantly boosted the chances of Shimon Peres, Rabin's successor and Oslo architect, to win the upcoming 1996 elections. However, a new wave of suicide bombings combined with Arafat's statements extolling the terrorist mastermind Yahya Ayyash, made the public mood swing once again and in May 1996 Peres narrowly lost to his challenger from Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Although seen as a hardliner opposing Oslo accords, Netanyahu withdrew from Hebron and signed the Wye River Memorandum giving wider control to the Palestinian National Authority. During Netanyahu's tenure Israel experienced a lull in terror, but his contradictory policies alienated both camps and eventually brought down his government in 1999. Labor's Ehud Barak, whose impressive military record made him acceptable to some traditional right-wing voters beat Netanyahu by a wide margin in the 1999 elections and succeeded him as prime minister.

2000s

Barak then initiated the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. The Israeli prime minister and Yassir Arafat once again conducted negotiations with President Clinton in July 2000. However, the talks failed to bring about anything but rebuttals from the Palestinian side of Barak's offers for a Palestinian State. The failure of the talks caused many Israelis on the both the right and left to turn away from Barak and discredited the peace movement.

With the collapse of the talks, Palestinian groups began a second uprising, known as the Al-Aqsa Intifadah after the leader of the opposition, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Sharon emerged as the new prime minister in March 2001 and was consequently re-elected, along with his Likud in the Knesset elections of 2003. Despite his formerly hawkish standpoint, Sharon initiated a plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Amidst great tension, this Disengagement was executed between between August and September 2005.

Since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifadah, over 1,000 Israelis, primarily citizens, have been killed as a result of Palestinian terrorism. Conversely, over 4,000 Palestinians have been killed. Most have been militants, though a high number of citizens, including children, have also lost their lives. Israel also has been building the West Bank Barrier, the stated purpose of which is to defend Israel from terror. The barrier, which often meanders past the Green Line, has been met with harsh criticsm from the international community, though it continues to be supported by a vast majority of the Israeli public.

Geography

Image:Cia-is-map2.gif Image:Israel topo en.jpg Image:TelAviv-Beach2.jpg Image:Knesset in Jerusalem Israel.jpg Template:Main

Israel is bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, and Egypt and the Gaza Strip in the south-west. It has coastlines on the Mediterranean in the west and the Gulf of Eilat (also known as the Gulf of Aqaba) in the south.

During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, Gaza Strip (which was under Egyptian occupation), and Sinai from Egypt. It withdrew all troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip on September 12 2005. The future status of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights remains to be determined.

The total area of the sovereign territory of Israel — excluding all territories captured by Israel in 1967 — is 20,770 km² or 8,019 mi²; (1% water). The total area under Israeli law — including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — is 22,145 km² or 8,550 mi²; with a little less than one per cent being water. The total area under Israeli control — including the military-controlled and Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank — is 28,023 km² or 10,820 mi² (~1% water).

Metropolitan areas

Template:See also As of 2004, The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics defines three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv (population 2,933,300), Haifa (population 980,600) and Be'er Sheva (population 511,700).<ref name="pdf1">Template:Cite web Template:PDFlink</ref> Jerusalem may also be considered a metropolitan area, though its limits are hard to define since it spans communities in Israel proper and the West Bank, both Israeli and Palestinian, and even the boundaries of Jerusalem city itself are disputed. As of 2005, the official population of Jerusalem city is 706,368.

Politics and law

Template:Main Israel is a democratic republic with universal suffrage that operates under the parliamentary system.

Legislature

Israel's unicameral legislative branch is a 120-member parliament known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is allocated to parties based on their proportion of the vote, via a proportional representation voting system. Elections to the Knesset are normally held every four years, but the Knesset can decide to dissolve itself ahead of time by a simple majority, known as a vote of no-confidence. Template:See also

Executive

The President of Israel is Head of State, serving as a largely ceremonial figurehead. The President selects the leader of the majority party or ruling coalition in the Knesset as the Prime Minister, who serves as head of government.<ref name="1990s">For a short period in the 1990s the Prime Minister was directly elected by the electorate. This change was not viewed a success and was abandoned.</ref>

Constitution and legal system

Israel has not completed a written constitution. Its government is based on the laws of the Knesset, especially the "Basic Laws of Israel", which are special laws (currently there are 15 of them), by the Knesset legislature which will become the future official constitution. In mid-2003, the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee began drafting a full written Constitution to be proposed to the Knesset, an effort that is still underway as of early 2006. <ref name="cfi">Template:Cite web</ref>

The declaration of the State of Israel has a significance in this matter as well. Israel's legal system is a western legal system best classified as "mixed": influenced by Anglo-American, Continental, and Jewish law principles.

As in Anglo-American law, the Israeli legal system is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent). It is an adversarial system, not an inquisitorial one, in the sense that the parties (for example, plaintiff and defendant) are the ones that bring the evidence before the court. The court does not conduct any independent investigation on the case.

As in Continental legal systems, the jury system was not adopted in Israel. Court cases are decided by professional judges. Additional Continental Law influences can be found in the fact that several major Israeli statutes (such as the Contract Law) are based on Civil Law principles. Israeli statute body is not comprised of Codes, but of individual statutes. However, a Civil Code draft has been completed recently, and is planned to become a bill.

Religious tribunals (Jewish, Sharia'a, Druze and Christian) have exclusive jurisdiction on annulment of marriages.

Judiciary

Image:SupremeCourtIsrael ST 06.jpg Israel's Judiciary branch is made of a three-tier system of courts. At the lowest level are Magistrate Courts, situated in most cities. Above them are District Courts, serving both as appellate courts and as courts of first instance, situated in five cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be'er Sheva and Nazareth.

At the top of the judicial pyramid is the Supreme Court of Israel seated in Jerusalem. The current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is Aharon Barak. The Supreme Court serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and as the body for a separate institution known as the High Court of Justice (HCOJ). The HCOJ has the unique responsibility of addressing petitions presented to the Court by individual citizens. The respondents to these petitions are usually governmental agencies (including the Israel Defense Forces). The result of such petitions, which are decided by the HCOJ, may be an instruction by the HCOJ to the relevant Governmental agency to act in a manner prescribed by the HCOJ.

A committee composed of Knesset members, Supreme Court Justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges. The Courts Law requires judges to retire at the age of seventy. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, with the approval of the Minister of Justice, appoints registrars to all courts.

Military

Template:Main Israel's military consists of a unified Israel Defense Forces (IDF), known in Hebrew by the acronym Tzahal (צה"ל). Historically, there have been no separate Israeli military services. The Navy and Air Force are subordinate to the Army. There are other paramilitary agencies that deal with different aspects of Israel's security (such as Magav and Shin Bet).

The IDF is considered one of the strongest military forces in the Middle East and ranks among the most battle-trained armed forces in the world, having had to defend the country in five major wars. The IDF's main resource is the training quality of its soldiers and expert institutions, rather than use of overwhelming force. It also relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems, some developed and manufactured in Israel for its specific needs, and others imported (largely from the United States).

Most Israelis (males and females) are drafted into the military at age 18. Exceptions are Israeli Arabs, confirmed pacifists, those who cannot serve due to injury or disability, and women who declare themselves religiously observant. Compulsory service is three years for men, and two years for women. Circassians and Bedouin also actively enlist in the IDF. Since 1956, Druze men have been conscripted in the same way as Jewish men, at the request of the Druze community. Men studying full-time in religious institutions can get a deferment from conscription. Most Haredi Jews extend these deferments until they are too old to be conscripted, a practice that has fueled much controversy in Israel.

Following compulsory service, Israeli men become part of the IDF reserve forces, and are usually required to serve several weeks every year as reservists until their 40s.

The International Atomic Energy Agency believes Israel to be a state possessing nuclear weapons. The government has never confirmed nor denied this assertion. Israel has not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and is not a signatory to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Template:Seealso

Economy

Image:Natbag2000 from-the-air.jpg Template:Main

Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of fossil fuels (crude oil, natural gas, and coal), grains, beef, 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 and beef. Diamonds, high technology, military equipment, software, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and agricultural products (fruits, vegetables and flowers) are leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Israel possesses extensive facilities for oil refining, diamond polishing, and semiconductor fabrication.

Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the United States, which is its major source of economic and military aid. A relatively large fraction of Israel's external debt is held by individual investors, via the Israel Bonds program. The combination of American loan guarantees and direct sales to individual investors, allow the state to borrow at competitive and sometimes below-market rates.

The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR topped 750,000 during the period 19891999, bringing the population of Israel from the former Soviet Union to one million, one-sixth of the total population, and adding scientific and professional expertise of substantial value for the economy's future. The influx, 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 slowing in 1996 when the government imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration bonus petered out. Those policies brought inflation down to record low levels in 1999.

High technology industries have taken a pre-eminent role in the economy, particularly in the last decade. Israel’s limited natural resources and strong emphasis on education have also played key roles in directing industry towards high technology fields. As a result of the country’s success in developing cutting edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences, Israel is frequently referred to as a second Silicon Valley. Israel (as of 2004) receives more venture capital investment than any country in Europe, and has the largest VC/GDP rate in the world, seven times that of the United States.

Another leading industry is tourism, which benefits from the plethora of important historical sites for Judaism and Christianity and from Israel’s warm climate and access to water resources. The important diamond industry has been affected by changing industry conditions and shifts of certain industry activities to the Far East.

As Israel has liberalized its economy and reduced taxes and spending, the gap between the rich and poor has grown. As of 2005, 20.5% of Israeli families (and 34% of Israeli children) are living below the poverty line, though around 40% of those are lifted above the poverty line through transfer payments.

Israel's GDP per capita, as of 28 July, 2005, was $20,551.20 per person (42nd in the world). Israel's overall productivity was $54,510.40, and the amount of patents granted was 74/1,000,000 people.

Population

Demographics

Image:Israeli soldiers and Arabs .jpg Template:Main According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004, of Israel's 6.9 million people, 77.2% were Jews, 18.5% Arabs, and 4.3% "others".<ref name="pdf2">Template:Cite web</ref> Among Jews, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim — 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries. <ref name="pdf3">Template:Cite web</ref>

Israel has two official languages; Hebrew and Arabic (See also: Languages of Israel). Hebrew is the major and primary language of the state and is spoken by the majority of the population. Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and by some members of the Mizrahi and Teimani Jewish communities. English is studied in school and is spoken by the majority of the population as a second language. Other languages spoken in Israel include Russian, Yiddish, Ladino, Romanian and French. American and European popular television shows are commonly presented. Newspapers can be found in all languages listed above as well as others, such as Farsi.

As of 2004, 224,200 Israeli citizens lived in the West Bank in numerous Israeli settlements, (including towns such as Ma'ale Adummim and Ariel, and a handful of communities that were present long before the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and were re-established after the Six-Day War such as Hebron and Gush Etzion). Around 180,000 Israelis lived in East Jerusalem, <ref name="fmep">Template:Cite web</ref> which came under Israeli law following its capture from Jordan during the Six-Day War. About 8,500 Israelis lived in settlements built in the Gaza Strip, prior to their forcible removal by the government in the summer of 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.

Culture of Israel

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Religion in Israel

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According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2004, 76.2% of Israelis were Jews by religion, 16.1% were Muslims, 2.1% Christian, 1.6% Druze and the remaining 3.9% (including Russian immigrants and some Jews) were not classified by religion. <ref name="pdf2">Template:Cite web</ref>

Roughly 12% of Israeli Jews defined as haredim (ultra-orthodox religious); an additional 9% are "religious"; 35% consider themselves "traditionalists" (not strictly adhering to Jewish Halakha); and 43% are "secular" (termed "hiloni"). Among the seculars, 53% believe in God.

Israelis tend not to align themselves with a movement of Judaism (such as Reform Judaism or Conservative Judaism) but instead tend to define their religious affiliation by degree of their religious practice.

Among Arab Israelis, 82.6% were Muslim, 8.8% were Christian and 8.4% were Druze. <ref name="pdf2" /> Template:Seealso

References and footnotes

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See also

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Annotated list of Israeli media sources

Template:Col-begin Template:Col-2 General references to the Israeli media:

English-language periodicals:

  • Azure [1] English edition of the quarterly journal offering essays and criticism on Israeli and Jewish public policy, culture and philosophy
  • Globes [2] English-language website of Israel's business and technology daily
  • Ha'Aretz [3] Online English edition of the relatively highbrow Hebrew-language newspaper, Haaretz has a liberal editorial stance similar to that of The Guardian.
  • IsraelInsider [4] - Independent, right wing outlet. Target audience is American Jewry.
  • Jerusalem Newswire [5] Independent, right-wing Christian-run news outlet
  • The Jerusalem Post [6] Israel's oldest English-language newspaper, considered to have a right-of-center editorial slant
  • Jerusalem Report [7] Left-of-center English weekly newspaper
  • YNetNews [8] English-language website of Israel's largest newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth

Hebrew-language periodicals:

  • Globes [9] business daily
  • Ha'Aretz [10] Relatively highbrow Israeli newspaper with a liberal editorial stance similar to that of The Guardian
  • Hamodia Daily newspaper serving Israel's Haredi community. English editions are also published in the U.S. and the U.K. and serve local Jewish Orthodox communities in those countries. Hamodia is not available online.
  • Hazofe [11] daily newspaper with a religious Zionist point of view
  • Maariv [12] Second largest Israeli newspaper, centrist.

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German-language periodicals:

  • Israel Nachrichten [16] The German-language daily from Tel Aviv for the 100,000 German-speaking Jews in Israel

Arabic-language periodicals:

  • Al-Ittihad Arabic-language daily newspaper

Israeli broadcast media:

Notable Internet sources:

Relevant non-Israeli media:

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External links

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General information

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Government

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The Knesset (Parliament)

Legislation and the Legal System

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History

Please see main article History of Israel

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Economy, science, and technology

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Foreign relations and the current conflicts

For links on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, see Arab-Israeli Conflict: External Links

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Society

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Photos

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Historical recordings

  • Authentic historical Recordings - UN Partition Vote of 1947, Arab Rejection, "First" Hatikva, Ben-Gurion - On Independence, Arab Countdown to Six Day War, Moshe Dayan - Six Day War, Gen. Ariel Sharon - "Move forward!", Nasser's Infamous Phonecall, Gen. Yitzhak Rabin - Six Day War, Abba Eban's "Stalingrad" Speech
  • A cry from the bunkers - Dramatic and authentic recordings by IDF soldier Avi Yaffe from inside the IDF position, under attack at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war.

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