Israel

Israel
Jerusalem
Hebrew, Arabic
Shekel (??) (ILS)
+972

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The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic in Western Asia, located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, Egypt and the Gaza Strip on the southwest, and contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel is the world's only Jewish-majority state, and is defined as a Jewish and democratic state in its Basic Laws.

Following the 1947 United Nations decision to partition 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 Israel a state independent from the British Mandate for Palestine. Neighboring Arab states invaded the next day in support of the Palestinian Arabs. Since then, Israel has fought a series of wars with neighboring Arab states, and has occupied territories, including the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, beyond those delineated in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Portions of these territories, including Jerusalem, have been annexed by Israel but the border with the neighboring West Bank is still not formally defined, as a result of the complex and unresolved political situation. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but efforts by elements on both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict to solve the problem diplomatically have so far met with little or no success. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin pushed for a two-state solution in the 1990s, but was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist.

The population of Israel, defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics to include all citizens or nationals, but not foreign workers, within Israel itself and in the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, was estimated in June 2011 to be 7,751,000 people, of whom 5,818,200 are Jewish. Arabs form by far the country's second-largest ethnic group, which includes Muslims and Christians. Other minorities are Druze, Circassians and Samaritans. At the end of 2005, 93% of the Arab population of East Jerusalem had permanent residency and 5% had Israeli citizenship. In the Golan Heights, Arabs are entitled to citizenship but most them have rejected it in favor of "loyalty to Syria." According to a 2008 census, 1,579,700 Arabs live in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Israel is a developed country and a representative democracy with a parliamentary system and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's unicameral legislative body. The economy, based on the nominal gross domestic product, was the 42nd-largest in the world in 2010 and it has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. Jerusalem is the country's capital, although it is not recognized internationally as such. In 2010, Israel joined the OECD.