Return to Main Page
Return to Country Files


Geography—note: there are 207 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 24 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1997 est.)

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

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey

Coastline: 273 km

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

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

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

Population: 5,643,966 (July 1998 est.)
note: includes 155,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, 17,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 6,000 in the Gaza Strip, and 164,000 in East Jerusalem (August 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 28% (male 814,558; female 776,630)
15-64 years: 62% (male 1,751,111; female 1,745,499)
65 years and over: 10% (male 239,658; female 316,510) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.91% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 19.99 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 6.19 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 8.02 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 78.41 years
male: 76.52 years
female: 80.39 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.71 children born/woman (1998 est.)

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.)

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

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

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

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

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. Manufacturing and construction employ about 28% of Israeli workers; agriculture, forestry, and fishing only 2.6%; 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 topped 750,000 during the period 1989-97, bringing the population of Israel from the former Soviet Union to one million, or one-sixth of the total population. Initially this great influx increased unemployment, intensified housing problems, and strained the government budget. At the same time, the immigrants bring to the economy scientific and professional expertise of substantial value for the future.

GDP—real growth rate: 1.9% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 17%
services: 81% (1997 est.)

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

total value: $20.7 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: machinery and equipment, cut diamonds, chemicals, textiles and apparel, agricultural products, metals
partners: EU 32%, US 31%, Japan 7% (1996)

total value: $28.6 billion (c.i.f., 1997)
commodities: military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, oil, consumer goods
partners: EU 52%, US 20%, Japan (1996)

Debt—external: $18.7 billion (1997)

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

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 1,446,634
females age 15-49: 1,414,898 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 1,183,989
females: 1,153,670 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $9.3 billion (1997)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 9.5% (1997)

Return to Main Page
Return to Country Files