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State of Israel

Medinat Yisra'el

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Bob Starkgraf


Country name:
conventional long form: State of Israel
conventional short form: Israel
local short form: Yisra'el
local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
Government type:
parliamentary democracy
Jerusalem; note - Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv
Administrative divisions:
6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May
no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws of the parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law
Legal system:
mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Moshe KATSAV (since 31 July 2000)
elections: president elected by the Knesset for a seven-year term; election last held 31 July 2000 (next to be held NA 2007); following legislative elections, the president assigns a Knesset member - traditionally the leader of the largest party - the task of forming a governing coalition; election last held 28 January 2003 (next to be held fall of 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Ariel SHARON (since 7 March 2001)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset
election results: Moshe KATSAV elected president by the 120-member Knesset with a total of 60 votes, other candidate, Shimon PERES, received 57 votes (there were three abstentions); Ariel SHARON continues as prime minister after Likud Party victory in January 2003 Knesset elections; Likud won 38 seats and then formed coalition government with Shinui, the National Religious Party, and the National Union
Legislative branch:
unicameral Knesset or parliament (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 27 January 2003 (next to be held NA 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - Likud Party 29.4%, Labor 14.5%, Shinui 12.3%, Shas 8.2%, National Union 5.5%, Meretz 5.2%, United Torah Judaism 4.3%, National Religious Party 4.2%, Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 3.0%, One Nation 2.8%, National Democratic Alliance 2.3%, YBA 2.2%, United Arab List 2.1%, Green Leaf Party 1.2%, Herut 1.2%, other 1.6%; seats by party - Likud 38, Labor 19, Shinui 15, Shas 11, National Union 7, Meretz 6, National Religious Party 6, United Torah Judaism 5, Democratic Front for Peace and Equality 3, One Nation 3, National Democratic Alliance 3, YBA 2, United Arab List 2
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court (justices appointed for life by the president)
Political parties and leaders:
Center Party [Dan MERIDOR]; Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) [Muhammad BARAKA]; Democratic Movement [Roman BRONFMAN]; Gesher [David LEVI]; Herut [michael KLEINER]; Labor Party [Binyamin BEN-ELIEZER]; Likud Party [Ariel SHARON]; Meimad [Rabbi Michael MELCHIOR]; Meretz [Yossi SARID]; National Democratic Alliance (Balad) [Azmi BISHARA]; National Religious Party [Yitzhak LEVY]; National Union [Benyamin ELON] (includes Tekuma and Moledet); One Israel [Ra'anan COHEN]; One Nation [Amir PERETZ]; Shas [Eliyahu YISHAI]; Shinui [Tommy LAPID]; United Arab List [Abd al-Malik DAHAMSHAH]; United Torah Judaism [Meir PORUSH]; Yisra'el Ba'Aliya or YBA [Natan SHARANSKY]; Yisra'el Beiteinu [Avigdor LIEBERMAN]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Israeli nationalists advocating Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Yesha (settler) Council promotes settler interests and opposes territorial compromise; B'Tselem monitors human rights abuses
International organization participation:
BSEC (observer), CCC, CE (observer), CERN (observer), EBRD, ECE, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW (signatory), OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel AYALON
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco
FAX: [1] (202) 364-3607
telephone: [1] (202) 364-5500
chancery: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel C. KURTZER
embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
mailing address: PSC 98, Box 29, APO AE 09830
telephone: [972] (3) 519-7457/7369/7454/7458/7453
FAX: [972] (3) 517-4390
consulate(s) general: Jerusalem; note - an independent US mission, established in 1928, whose members are not accredited to a foreign government
Flag description:
white with a blue hexagram (six-pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag


Economy - overview:
Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, 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. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the US, which is its major source of economic and military aid. The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR during the period 1989-99 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 moderating in 1996 when the government imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration bonus petered out. Growth was a strong 6.4% in 2000. But the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict, increasingly the declines in the high-technology and tourist sectors, and fiscal austerity measures in the face of growing inflation have led to declines in GDP in 2001 and 2002.
purchasing power parity - $122 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-1.1% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $19,000 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 30%
services: 67% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 28% (1992) (1997)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
38 (1997)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.7% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
2.4 million (2000 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
public services 31%, manufacturing 20%, finance and business 13%, commerce 13%, construction 8%, personal and other services 6%, transport, storage, and communications 6%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 3% (1996) (1996)
Unemployment rate:
10.4% (2002 est.)
revenues: $40 billion
expenditures: $42.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
high-technology projects (including aviation, communications, computer-aided design and manufactures, medical electronics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, diamond cutting
Industrial production growth rate:
-1.5% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
38.876 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
34.897 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
1.27 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
12 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
$28 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Exports - partners:
US 42.8%, Benelux 7.4%, Hong Kong 6.8%, Germany 4.8%, UK 4.8%, Japan 3.2% (2001)
$30.8 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
US 23.5%, Benelux 10.2%, Germany 7.9%, uk 6.7%, Switzerland 6.0%, Italy 5.2% (2001)
Debt - external:
$42.8 billion (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
new Israeli shekel (ILS)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
new Israeli shekels per US dollar - 4.2757 (December 2001), 4.2057 (2001), 4.0773 (2000), 4.1397 (1999), 3.8001 (1998), 3.4494 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year