Country of Israel borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, the Red Sea, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East. Since its founding, Israel has experienced conflict with its neighbors, mainly Arab and Muslim countries, and Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied territories. Israel declared its independence in 1948.
Area: 20,770 sq. km (about the size of New Jersey)
Population: 8,299,706 (July 2017 est, includes Golan Heights and East Jerusalem)
Median age: 29.9
Capital: Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1950 (many international embassies are in Tel Aviv)
Ethnic Groups: Jewish 74.7%, non-Jewish 25.2% (mostly Arab) (2016 est.)
Religion: Jewish 74.7%, Muslim 17.7%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.6%, other 4% (2016 est.)
GDP $315.6 billion (2017)
GDP per capita: $36,200 (2017)
Unemployment: 4.3% (2017)
Israel is a parliamentary democracy comprised of legislative, executive and judicial branches.
About 93% of the land is owned by the State of Israel, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Development Authority. The Israel Land Authority (ILA) manages the land. The government issues long-term leasing rights for land.
BRIEF HISTORICAL REVIEW OF ISRAEL
November 2, 1917 – The British government expresses support for the establishment of a permanent Jewish state in Palestine with a letter called the Balfour Declaration.
1922 – The League of Nations authorizes Great Britain to help the Jewish people establish a homeland in Palestine with the British Mandate for Palestine.
1936-1939 – Tension between Arabs and Jewish settlers leads to riots.
1937 – In the wake of the unrest, a British commission issues a report recommending the partition of Israel into an Arab state, a Jewish state and a neutral zone for holy sites. A year later, a separate commission concludes that the planned partition is impractical and the plan is abandoned.
1939-1945 – World War II is fought in Europe and the Pacific. More than six million Jews are killed in the Holocaust.
November 29, 1947 – The United Nations approves a plan for the partition of Palestine.
May 14, 1948 – The independent state of Israel is declared with David Ben-Gurion as prime minister.
May 1948 – Forces from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon invade, leading to the first in a series of Arab-Israeli wars.
1949 – An armistice agreement is reached. The West Bank is split off from Israel to become Jordanian territory and the Gaza Strip is designated as an Egyptian territory. The armistice is meant to be a temporary arrangement, a prelude to permanent peace treaties.
1949 – Israel is admitted into the United Nations.
1950 – The UN begins operating a relief agency for Palestinian refugees. When the agency is introduced, about 750,000 displaced Palestinians are in need of services.
July 5, 1950 – The government adopts the Law of Return – “Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh (a Jewish immigrant).”
January 1964 – Pope Paul VI visits Israel.
1964 – The Palestine Liberation Organization is formed.
June 5-10, 1967 – The Six-Day War is fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria. At the end of this war, Israel doubles its land holdings to include the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
September 1972 – Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team are killed by terrorists in Munich, Germany.
October 1973 – Egypt and Syria launch air strikes against Israel on the holy day, Yom Kippur. The fighting continues for more than two weeks, ending after the UN adopts a resolution to stop the war.
November 19, 1977 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visits Jerusalem for peace talks with Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
September 5-17, 1978 – US President Jimmy Carter sponsors a summit between Israel and Egypt at Camp David. The summit leads to an agreement called “The Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” establishing a potential path to end the conflicts between Israel and neighboring countries. Begin and Sadat share the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.
March 1979 – The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is signed by Begin and Sadat. Israel agrees to withdraw its forces from the Sinai Peninsula while Egypt agrees to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and grant Israeli ships free passage through the Suez Canal.
December 1987 – The Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, begins.
November 1988 – The PLO accepts two UN resolutions, recognizing Israel as a sovereign state and renouncing terrorism.
October 30-November 4, 1991 – The Madrid Peace Conference is organized by US Secretary of State James Baker. Heads of state from Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, along with delegations from the West Bank and Gaza, come together to discuss peace plans.
September 13, 1993 – PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands on a Middle East peace deal.
1994 – Arafat, Rabin and Shimon Peres share the Nobel Peace Prize. Full diplomatic relations are established with the Vatican.
November 4, 1995 – Rabin is assassinated by an Israeli extremist opposed to the leader’s diplomacy with Arab states.
March 21-26, 2000 – Pope John Paul II visits Israel.
September 28, 2000 – Opposition leader Ariel Sharon visits the Temple Mount, a holy place for both Jews and Muslims. The visit is condemned by Arafat and it leads to a wave of violent clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
2002 – Israel begins construction of a wall along its border with the West Bank.
2003 – US President George W. Bush presents “Middle East: The Road Map to Peace.” Israeli and Palestinian leaders agree to broad outlines of the plan, but as of August 2018, the countries have not reached the road map’s endpoint: a two-state solution to resolve the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians.
December 2003 – The Disengagement Plan, a planned withdrawal from Gaza and settlements in the West Bank, is announced by Sharon.
July 12-August 14, 2006 – Hezbollah forces attack Israeli troops. Israel retaliates with air strikes.
June 2008 – A six month cease-fire between Hamas and Israel is negotiated by Egypt, as Hamas agrees to stop its rocket attacks and Israel agrees to stop air strikes and ground operations in Gaza. The truce holds for six months but Hamas rocket attacks resume in December, leading to a three-week Israeli offensive called Operation Cast Lead. During the military campaign, 1,387 Palestinians are killed, according to an Israeli human rights organization.
May 2010 – Pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish passenger ship try to breach a blockade to reach Gaza with humanitarian supplies. Israeli commandos intercept the ship and nine activists are killed during the raid. Three years after the incident, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologizes to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
2011 – Israel releases 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured in 2006.
March 2012 – Israel suspends ties with the UN Human Rights Council, declining to cooperate with the group’s planned investigation of Jewish settlements.
July 2013-April 2014 – Israelis and Palestinians engage in peace talks brokered by the United States. The negotiations end without an agreement.
June 2, 2014 – Hamas and Fatah swear in a unity government. A year later, the government is dissolved due to tensions between the two groups.
July-August 2014 – In response to rocket attacks by Hamas, Israel conducts an offensive called Operation Protective Edge. More than 1,800 Palestinians are killed amid the fighting in Gaza.
March 17, 2015 – Netanyahu is re-elected.
December 23, 2016 – The UN Security Council approves a resolution which calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
May 1, 2017 – Hamas unveils a new policy document that says the group accepts the idea of a Palestinian state within borders drawn up prior to the Six-Day War in 1967. The new charter does not, however, recognize Israel as a legitimate sovereign state. In response to the announcement, a spokesman for Netanyahu says, “Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed.”
December 6, 2017- US President Donald Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announces plans to relocate the US Embassy there.
May 14, 2018 – The United States relocates its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a move that is met with clashes and protests along the Gaza border. At least 58 Palestinians are killed and more than 2,700 injured as deadly protests take place ahead of, during and after the ceremony in Jerusalem, making it the deadliest day there since the 2014 Gaza war.
May 29, 2018 – Israeli Defense Forces carry out dozens of airstrikes on targets in Gaza after Hamas and the militant group, Islamic Jihad fire rockets and mortars across the border.
June 20, 2018 – Unrest continues, as militants launch some 45 rockets towards Israel, according to the IDF. Israel responds with fighter jet airstrikes.
July 19, 2018 – After hours of debate, parliament passes a Netanyahu-backed bill that declares Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. Although the law is largely symbolic, it stirs up controversy.
April 9, 2019 – Netanyahu is re-elected.