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Israel : Country Review
The Jewish State of Israel comprises much of the historic Hebrew region, known in ancient times as Canaan. The archeological record indicates that the ancient Land of Canaan was settled by different tribes including Semitic peoples, Hittites, Philistines in later years, peoples arriving from Mycenae, and ancient Greek peoples who themselves settled Mycenae. Because of its geographic location, Canaan was influenced by the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, and served as a burgeoning trading center for caravans between the Nile Valley and the Euphrates. But it was also an area plagued by hostility between the peoples of the area.
Historically, those interactions -- often imbued by conflict -- involved the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Seljuk Turks, the Ottomans among others. This long history of occupation and control by imperial powers also included the expulsion of the native Jewish / Israelite population from the region and the roots of what would become the global Jewish diaspora.
Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916, Arab regions in the Middle East were divided into zones of influence. Lebanon and Syria were mandated to the French. The area called "Palestine" was mandated to the British in 1920 and was made up of what is known today as Jordan, Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.
Meanwhile, during World War I, the British made two commitments regarding territory in the Middle East. The British promised to create a Jewish homeland, as conveyed in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. At the same time, local Arabs had been promised a vast independent Arab country in exchange for their support during the war years. There was another dimension to this proposed scenario, however. According to Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, the British had specifically promised the Hashemite family dominion over much of that land.
By 1923, the British had divided the "Palestine" portion of the former Ottoman Empire into two administrative districts. The area east of the Jordan River, which encompassed the vast majority of the land -- approximately 75 percent of the total area -- was given to Hashemite Emir Abdullah of Hejaz (located in Saudi Arabia). That portion of Palestine was renamed to be Trans-Jordania (or Trans-Jordan) and it was recast again as simply Jordan in 1946 when ceased to be under British control. (Note: On September 11, 1922, a memorandum was approved by the League of Nations ensuring that Trans-Jordan would be excluded from provisions pertaining to Jewish settlement.) The area west of the Jordan River -- amounting to only 25 percent of the original area -- was to become the Jewish homeland, which would be officially named Israel.
It should thus be noted that the British originally planned the establishment of two states -- one for Jews and one for the Arabs. The Arab territory latter had given to the Hashemite clan only, effectively displacing Palestinian Arabs from the area that should have been earmarked for an Arab Palestinian homeland.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) had recommended that the area be divided in to an Arab state and a Jewish state. The commission called for Jerusalem to be placed under international administration. In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted this proposal which became known as United Nations Resolution GA 181.
In May 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed soon after the British quit Palestine. However, much of the history of the region since the creation of the State of Israel has been one of conflict between Israel and Palestinians on one side, and Israel and its Arab neighbors on the other. Several wars were fought between 1948 and 1967 involving Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Israel defeated the Arabs in the wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides.
In 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a peace agreement, and in 1982 Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. In the summer of 2005, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military, ending almost four decades of military occupation. However, after the militant Islamic group Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007, Israel intensified its economic blockade of the Strip. Renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas on the terrain of Gaza ensued in 2014. Meanwhile, in 2006, Israel fought a war with Lebanon-based Hezbollah.
To date, there have been repeated and renewed efforts to forge a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians; however, those moves are yet to bear sustainable fruit.
Despite limited natural resources, Israel has a diversified and technologically advanced economy.
|Real Gross Domestic Product (LCU billions 2005 base)||1012.302532||1037.689701||1066.564378||1098.154810||1130.162561|
|Real GDP Growth Rate (%)||3.162811||2.507863||2.782592||2.961887||2.914684|
|Population, total (million)||8.212000||8.377000||8.528000||8.672000||8.811000|
|Inflation, GDP Deflator (%)||1.111811||2.765458||-0.042799||0.169488||1.455134|
|Official Exchange Rate (LCU/$US)||3.577927||3.886835||3.835387||3.763818||3.765005|
|Total Foreign Exchange Reserves ($US billions)||86.101262||90.575017||77.156615||79.746879||83.911235|
Average Daily Temperature
|Annual Rainfall :||18.4"|
|Various Jewish-Based Ethnicities||80.00 %|
|Islam (mostly Sunni)||15.00 %|