World Country Israel

About the world country Israel, its location, size, population, and who is in power.



Location: On the southeastern Mediterranean coast, between Egypt and Lebanon. Size:8,019 sq. mi. (20,770 sq. km.) in Israel proper; 2,099 sq. mi. (5,439 sq. km.) in occupied West Bank and Gaza. Population:3,890,000 (85% Jewish) in Israel proper; 750,000 in West Bank and Gaza.

Who Really Rules: Israel is a multiparty parliamentary democracy, currently governed by the right-wing Likud bloc coalition of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The Labor party (Mapai), which held power from independence in 1948 until 1977, leads a large opposition.

The country has a mixed economy with extensive welfare programs. Histadrut, the labor federation for both Jews and non-Jews (predominantly Arab Muslims), is in fact Israel's largest employer, owning not only cooperatives and agricultural collectives but also corporate enterprises. Well-educated Jews of European descent (Ashkenazim) are generally more affluent than Sephardic (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern) Jews. Non-Jewish Arabs remain at the bottom of the economic and social ladder.

In a constant state of war since before its independence, Israel diverts a huge portion of its national resources to the military. Israel relies heavily on weapons and financial assistance from the U.S. government, as well as on private contributions from American Jewry. Since Israel turned the Sinai oil fields over to Egypt, the U.S. has guaranteed Israel's fuel supply.

West Bank and Gaza: Though Israel also occupies sections of Syria, Egypt, and, indirectly, Lebanon, those areas administered by Jordan and the U.N. from 1948 to 1967 are still considered to be Palestine. The Gaza Strip (south of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast) and the West Bank (the area west of the Jordan River, including Arab--East--Jerusalem) may become a Palestinian (Arab) state or an autonomous region of Israel. Presently, however, the occupied territories are under the arbitrary authority of the Israeli military.

Israelis are divided as to the future of Palestine. While all Israelis reject the official Palestinian program of eliminating the Jewish state, many oppose the establishment of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Few Israelis want the West Bank and Gaza to become part of a unitary Israeli state, however, for that would give the vote to hundreds of thousands of Arabs and dilute Jewish power.

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