Factbook: Israel




Current issues: The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the data below, unless otherwise noted. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations are being conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives, and Israel and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement between them. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace treaty. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.


Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon

Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E

Map references: Middle East

total: 20,770 sq km
land: 20,330 sq km
water : 440 sq km

Area – comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey

Land boundaries:
total: 1,006 km
border countries: Egypt 255 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km

Coastline: 273 km

Maritime claims:
continental shelf : to depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas

Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley

Elevation extremes:
lowest point : Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m

Natural resources: copper, phosphates, bromide, potash, clay, sand, sulfur, asphalt, manganese, small amounts of natural gas and crude oil

Land use:
arable land: 17%
permanent crops: 4%
permanent pastures: 7%
forests and woodland : 6%
other: 66% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 1,800 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer

Environment – current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified : Marine Life Conservation

Geography – note: there are 203 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 24 in the Gaza Strip, and 26 in East Jerusalem (August 1996 est.)


Population: 5,534,672 (July 1997 est.)
note: includes 136,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, 15,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 5,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 156,000 in East Jerusalem (August 1996 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28% (male 803,792; female 766,224)
15-64 years : 62% (male 1,711,668; female 1,708,700)
65 years and over: 10% (male 234,902; female 309,386) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.01% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 20.16 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 6.22 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Net migration rate: 6.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth : 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 8.3 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.21 years
male : 76.34 years
female: 80.18 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.74 children born/woman (1997 est.)

noun: Israeli(s)
adjective: Israeli

Ethnic groups: Jewish 82% (Israel-born 50%, Europe/Americas/Oceania-born 20%, Africa-born 7%, Asia-born 5%), non-Jewish 18% (mostly Arab) (1993 est.)

Religions: Judaism 82%, Islam 14% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2%, Druze and other 2%

Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95%
male: 97%
female : 93% (1992 est.)


Country name:
conventional long form: State of Israel
conventional short form: Israel
local long form: Medinat Yisra’el
local short form: Yisra’el

Data code: IS

Government type: republic

National capital: 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

Independence: 14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)

National holiday: Independence Day, 14 May 1948 (Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May)

Constitution: 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

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ezer WEIZMAN (since 13 May 1993)
head of government : Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU (since 18 June 1996)
cabinet: Cabinet selected from and approved by the Knesset
elections: president elected by the Knesset for a five-year term; election last held 24 March 1993 (next to be held NA March 1998); prime minister elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 29 May 1996 (next to be held NA 2000); note – in March 1992, the Knesset approved legislation, effective in 1996, which allowed for the direct election of the prime minister; under the new law, each voter casts two ballots – one for the direct election of the prime minister and one for the party in the Knesset; the candidate that receives the largest percentage of the popular vote then works to form a coalition with other parties to achieve a parliamentary majority of 61 seats; finally, the candidate must submit his or her cabinet to the Knesset for approval and this must be done within 45 days of the election; in contrast to the old system, under the new law, the prime minister’s party need not be the single-largest party in the Knesset
election results: Ezer WEIZMAN elected president; percent of Knesset vote – NA; Binyamin NETANYAHU elected prime minister; percent of vote – Binyamin NETANYAHU 50.4%, Shimon PERES 49.5%

Legislative branch: unicameral Knesset or parliament (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 29 May 1996 (next to be held NA 2000)
election results: percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – Labor Party 34, Likud Party 32, SHAS 10, MERETZ 9, National Religious Party 9, Yisra’el Ba’Aliya 7, Hadash-Balad 5, Third Way 4, United Arab List 4, United Jewish Torah 4, Moledet 2; note – Likud, Tzomet, and Gesher candidates ran on a joint list

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Political parties and leaders:
government coalition: Likud Party, Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU; Tzomet, Rafael EITAN; Gesher, David LEVI; SHAS, Arieh DERI; National Religious Party, Zevulun HAMMER; Yisra’el Ba’Aliya, Natan SHARANSKY; United Jewish Torah, Meir PORUSH; Third Way, Avigdor KAHALANI; Moledet, Rehavam ZEEVI
opposition: Labor Party, Shimon PERES; MERETZ, Yossi SARID; United Arab List, Abd al-Malik DAHAMSHAH; Hadash-Balad, Hashim MAHAMID

Political pressure groups and leaders: Gush Emunim, Israeli nationalists advocating Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and is critical of government’s Lebanon policy

International organization participation: AG (observer), 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), OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission : Ambassador Eliahu BEN-ELISSAR
chancery: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 364-5500
FAX: [1] (202) 364-5610
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Martin S. INDYK
embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv
mailing address: PSC 98, Box 100, APO AE 09830
telephone : [972] (3) 519-7575
FAX: [972] (3) 517-3227
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 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. Manufacturing and construction employ about 29% of Israeli workers, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 3.5%, and services the rest. Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains. Diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are 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. To earn needed foreign exchange, Israel has been targeting high-technology niches in international markets, such as medical scanning equipment. The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR, which topped 750,000 during the period 1989-96, initially increased unemployment, intensified housing problems, and strained the government budget. At the same time, the immigrants bring to the economy valuable scientific and professional expertise.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $85.7 billion (1996 est.)

GDP – real growth rate: 4.6% (1996)

GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $16,400 (1996 est.)

GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture: 3.5%
industry: 22%
services: 74.5%

Inflation rate – consumer price index: 11.3% (1996)

Labor force:
total: 2.2 million (1996)
by occupation : public services 29.3%, manufacturing 22.1%, construction 6.5%, commerce 13.9%, finance and business 10.4%, personal and other services 7.4%, transport, storage, and communications 6.3%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 3.5%, other 0.6% (1992)

Unemployment rate: 6.5% (1996)

revenues: $41 billion
expenditures: $53 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (1996)

Industries: food processing, diamond cutting and polishing, textiles and apparel, chemicals, metal products, military equipment, transport equipment, electrical equipment, potash mining, high-technology electronics, tourism

Industrial production growth rate: 8% (1995)

Electricity – capacity: 6.92 million kW (1995 est.)

Electricity – production: 30.4 billion kWh (1995 est.)

Electricity – consumption per capita: 4,738 kWh (1995 est.)

Agriculture – products: citrus and other fruits, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products

total value: $20.3 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities : machinery and equipment, cut diamonds, chemicals, textiles and apparel, agricultural products, metals
partners: US, EU, Japan

total value: $28.3 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities : military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, oil, other productive inputs, consumer goods
partners: EU, US, Japan

Debt – external: $25.7 billion (1996)

Economic aid:
recipient : total receipts $12.14 billion of which $11.38 billion from the US (1990-93)

Currency: 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot

Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels (NIS) per US$1 – 3.2761 (January 1997), 3.2882 (1996), 3.0113 (1995), 3.0111 (1994), 2.8301 (1993), 2.4591 (1992)

Fiscal year: calendar year (since 1 January 1992)


Telephones: 2.425 million (1990 est.)

Telephone system: most highly developed system in the Middle East although not the largest
domestic : good system of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay
international: 3 submarine cables; satellite earth stations – 3 Intelsat (2 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 9, FM 45, shortwave 0

Radios: 2.25 million (1993 est.)

Television broadcast stations: 20

Televisions: 1.5 million (1993 est.)


total: 526 km
standard gauge: 526 km 1.435-m gauge

total: 14,700 km
paved: 14,700 km (including 56 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1995 est.)

Pipelines: crude oil 708 km; petroleum products 290 km; natural gas 89 km

Ports and harbors: Ashdod, Ashqelon, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo

Merchant marine:
total: 26 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 659,505 GRT/778,780 DWT
ships by type: cargo 2, container 23, roll-on/roll-off cargo 1 (1996 est.)

Airports: 50 (1996 est.)

Airports – with paved runways:
total: 45
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m : 7
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 22 (1996 est.)

Airports – with unpaved runways:
total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m : 2
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (1996 est.)

Heliports: 2 (1996 est.)


Military branches: Israel Defense Forces (includes ground, naval, and air components), Pioneer Fighting Youth (Nahal), Frontier Guard, Chen (women); note – historically there have been no separate Israeli military services

Military manpower – military age: 18 years of age

Military manpower – availability:
males age 15-49: 1,420,066
females age 15-49 : 1,391,042 (1997 est.)

Military manpower – fit for military service:
males: 1,162,745 (1997 est.)
females: 1,134,610 (1997 est.)

Military manpower – reaching military age annually:
males: 50,744
females : 48,519 (1997 est.)

Military expenditures – dollar figure: $9.2 billion (1996)

Military expenditures – percent of GDP: about 9.8% (1996)

Transnational Issues

Disputes – international: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; Israeli troops in southern Lebanon since June 1982

Illicit drugs: increasingly concerned about cocaine and heroin abuse and trafficking