General information: After World War II, the British relinquished their mandate to govern Palestine and the United Nations divided the area into Arab and Jewish states. This agreement was rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars, which did not eliminate the sharp confrontation between the parties. The territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war are not included in the present description of the country, unless otherwise indicated. In accordance with the plan adopted at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations are being held between Israel and Palestinian representatives (from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Israel and Syria to reach a permanent agreement. On April 25, 1982, Israel left the Sinai Peninsula, fulfilling the terms of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
Location: Middle East, Mediterranean coast, between Egypt and Lebanon.
Geographical coordinates: 31° 30′ N. latitude, 34° 45′ E
Reference map: Middle East.
Area: total: 20,770 km2; land surface area: 20,330 km2; water surface area: 440 km2
Comparative area: slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey.
Land borders: total: 1,006 km; with neighboring states: with Egypt 255 km, with the Gaza Strip 51 km, with Jordan 238 km, with Lebanon 79 km, with Syria 76 km, with the West Bank of the Jordan River 307 km.
Coastline: 273 km.
Maritime claims: continental shelf: to the depth of field development; territorial waters: 12 nautical miles.
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas.
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; coastal lowland; mountainous central region; deep Jordan Valley.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m; highest point: Mount Meron 1,208 m.
Natural resources: copper, phosphates, bromides, potash, clay, sand, sulfur, asphalt, manganese, small reserves of natural gas and oil.
Land use: arable land: 17%; cultivated land: 4%; pastures: 7%; forests and plantations: 6%; others: 66% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 1,800 km2 (1993 est.).
Natural Hazards: Sandstorms can occur in spring and summer.
Current environmental issues: the scarcity of fertile land and natural sources of fresh water pose serious problems; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution by industrial and sewage effluents, fertilizers and pesticides.
International environmental agreements: member: Biodiversity, Climate change, Desertification, Endangered species, Hazardous waste, Nuclear test ban, Ozone layer protection, Ship pollution, Wetlands; signed but not ratified: Kyoto Protocol, Conservation of marine life.
Note to the section “Geography”: There are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land holdings in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Gopan Heights, 25 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2000 est.).
Population: 5,938,093 (July 2001 est.); note: including 176,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, approximately 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, approximately 6,900 in the Gaza Strip, approximately 173,000 in East Jerusalem (August 2000 est.).
Age structure: under 14: 27.36% (male 831,523; female 792,982); 15 to 64 years old: 62.73% (male 1,869,114; female 1,855,707); over 65: 9.91% (male 253,105; female 335,662) (2001 est.).
Population growth: 1.58% (2001 est.).
Birth rate: 19.12 newborns / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Mortality: 6.22 deaths / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Migration: 2.85 people /1000 people (2001 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male/female; under 15: 1.05 male/female; 15 to 64 years old: 1.01 male/female; over 65: 0.75 male/female; for the general population: 0.99 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 7.72 deaths/1000 newborns (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 78.71 years; men: 76.69 years; women: 80.84 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 2.57 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of adults infected with HIV: 0.08% (1999 est.).
Number of people infected with HIV: 2,400 (1999 est.).
AIDS deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.).
Nationality: noun: Israeli; adjective: Israeli.
Ethnic groups: Jewish 80.1% (European-American 32.1%, Israeli-born 20.8%, African-born 14.6%, Asian-born 12.6%), non-Jewish 19.9% (predominantly Arab) (1996 est.).
Believers: Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (predominantly Sunni), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.).
Language(s): Hebrew (official), Arabic is the official language of the Arab minority, English is the most widely spoken foreign language.
Literacy: definition: persons aged 15 and over who can read and write; for the general population: 95%; men: 97%; women: 93% (1992 est.).
Common long form: State of Israel;
conventional short form: Israel; local long form: Medinat Yisra’el; local short form: Yisra’el.
State structure: parliamentary democracy. See a2zgov.com to know more about Israel government and politics.
Capital: Jerusalem; note: Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1950, but the US, like almost every other country, has an embassy in Tel Aviv.
Administrative division: 6 districts (mehoz): Jerusalem, North, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Central, South.
Independence: from 14 May 1948 (until 1948 under British administration under a League of Nations mandate).
National holiday: Independence Day, 14 May 1948; note – Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, but the Hebrew calendar is lunar and the holiday may be celebrated on different days in April or May.
Constitution: There is no formal constitution; some of the functions of the constitution are performed by the Declaration of Foundation (1948), the Basic Law on the Parliament (Knesset) and the Israeli Citizenship Law.
Legal system: mixed, created on the basis of English common law, legal acts of the British administration of the Mandatory Territory and, in certain matters, on the basis of Jewish, Christian and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal.
chief of state: President Mo-she KATSAV (since 13 July 2000);
head of government: Prime Minister Ariel SHARON (since 2 March 2001);
Government: the cabinet is chosen by the prime minister and approved by the Knesset; elections: the president is elected by the Knesset for a 5-year term; elections last held 31 July 2000 (next to be held in July 2005); the prime minister is elected by popular vote for a term of 4 years; elections last held 6 February 2001 (next to be held in 2005); note – in March 1992, the Knesset approved a law, effective in 1996, which establishes the direct election of the prime minister; but in 2001 the Knesset voted to return to the pre-existing order, in which the prime minister is elected by the Knesset, after the re-election of the legislature in 2003; election results: Moshe KATSAV elected President of the Knesset with 60 votes, another candidate, Shimon PERES, received 57 votes (with 3 abstentions); Ariel SHARON elected prime minister; vote distribution: Ariel SHARON 62.5%, Ehud BARAK 37.4%; note: after the next legislative elections, expected in 2003, the prime minister will be elected by the Knesset.
Legislature: unicameral Knesset (parliament) (120 seats; members are elected by popular vote for 4 years); elections: last held 17 May 1999 (next to be held in November 2003); election results: distribution of votes between parties: United Israel 20.2%, Likud Party 14.1%, Shas 13%, Meretz 7.6%, Yisrael Ba’Alia 5.1%, Shinui 5%, Center Party 5%, National Religious Party 4.2%, United Torah Jews 3.7%, United Arab List 3.4%, National Union 3%, Hadash 2.6%, Our Home Israel 2.6%, Balad 1.9%, United nation 1.9%, Democratic Movement – no data (the party was formed after the elections, members are elected on the list of the Yisrael Ba-Alia party); seat distribution among parties: United Israel 26, Likud Party 19, Shas 17, Meretz 10, Yisrael Ba’Aliyah 4, Shinui 6, Center Party 6, National Religious Party 5, United Torah Jews 5,
Judiciary: Supreme Court, judges are appointed for life by the president.
Political parties and leaders: Balad (National Democratic Alliance) (Amnon LIPKIN-SHAHAK); Center Party (Yitzhak MORDECHAI); Democratic Movement (Roman BRONFMAN [Roman BRONFMAN]); Gesher (David LEVI [David LEVI]); Hadash (Muhammad BARAKA [Muhammad BARAKA]); Party of Labor (post of leader is vacant); Likud Party (Ariel SHARON); MERETZ (Yossi SARID); National Religious Party (Yitzhak LEVY); National Union (Rehavam ZEEVI) (includes Herut, Tekuma, Moledet parties); United Israel (leader – no data) (includes Labor Party, Gesher, Meimad); One Nation (Amir PERETZ [Amir PERETZ]); Shas (Eliyahu YISHAI [Eliyahu YISHAI]); Shinui (Tommy LAPID); Single Arabic List (Abd al-Malik DAHAMSHAH [Abd al-Malik DAHAMSHAH]); United Torah Jews (Rabbi Eliezer SHACK); Israel Ba-Aliya (Natan SHARANSKY); Our home is Israel (Avigdor LIEBERMAN).
Political pressure groups and their leaders: Gush Yeminim, Israeli nationalists defending Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza; Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and criticizes government policies in Lebanon.
Participation in international organizations: BSEC (observer), CCC, CE (observer), CERN (observer), EBRD, ECE, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO.
Diplomatic representation in the USA: Head of Mission: Ambassador David IVRY; office: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008; phone:  (202) 364-5500; fax: [\] (202) 364-5607; consulates general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco.
US Mission: Chief of Mission: Ambassador Martin S. INDYK; embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv; mailing address: PSC 98, Unit 7228, APO AE 09830; phone:  (3) 519-7575; fax:  (3) 517-3227; consulates general: Jerusalem; note – an independent US mission founded in 1928 whose members are not accredited to a foreign government.
Flag Description: white with a six-pointed blue star (known as the Star of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue stripes running near the bottom and top edges of the flag.