The State of Israel is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Egypt to the south (266 km), the occupied Gaza Strip
(51 km) to the southwest, the occupied West Bank
(307 km) to the east, Jordan (238 km) to the east, Syria (76 km) on the northeast and Lebanon (79 km) to the north.
According to estimates of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2009, Israel had 7.5 million residents, including 5.7 million Jews (75 percent of the population) and 1.5 million Arabs (20.3 percent of the population). Christians and followers of other religions constituted 319,000 of Israel’s inhabitants.
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics divides Israel into six administrative districts – Northern
, Tel Aviv
districts. The statistical information also includes data from illegal settlements in Golan Heights and West Bank areas that Israel occupied in the 1967 war (Judea and Samaria
The Oslo Accords
(1993) divided control and administration of the West Bank into three areas. Area A is under Palestinian control and administration, area B is controlled by Israel and administered by Palestinians and finally area C is under full Israeli control and administration.
In the late 19th century, Jewish nationalist ambitions embodied in the Zionist movement began to arrive in Palestine
, in the form of several waves of Jewish immigration from different parts of the world.
With the Balfour Declaration
in 1917, the British government formally stated a policy that favored the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
In 1918, the British mandate in Palestine was established and with the support of Britain, the Jewish colonization project expanded significantly. As a result, Palestinian nationalism emerged to counter British colonialism and expansionist Zionism, climaxing in the Palestinian revolt (1936-1939).
As Israeli historian Ilan Pappé puts it, the Zionist leadership became convinced that the only way to achieve a Jewish state with ethnic supremacy was by total expulsion of the native Palestinian population. After the Second World War, the United Kingdom became increasingly involved in a violent conflict with the local Jewish armed groups leading to its decision to withdraw from Palestine and thus accelerated implementation of Zionist plans.
In February 1947, the issue was transferred to the United Nations, which eventually adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181
, also known as the UN Partition Plan for Palestine, dividing it into two states.
On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel declared its independence on 80 percent of historic Palestine, followed by the outbreak of the 1948 war and the intervention of neighboring Arab countries.
By the end of 1948, some 750,000 Palestinians (constituting half of Palestine’s indigenous population) was uprooted, and 531 Palestinian villages and 11 urban neighborhoods were destroyed. This historic event is remembered by Palestinians as "al-Nekba" or "the Catastrophe."
In 1967, Middle East countries were mobilizing their armed forces, culminating in an Israeli attack on Egypt on June 5. The 1967 war lasted for six days and allowed Israel to occupy a remaining 20 percent of historic Palestine, including the West Bank (with East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. As a result of this conflict, the UN Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 242
, calling on Israel to withdraw its armed forces from the occupied territories.
In October 1973, another war broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors, resulting in the Camp David peace treaty (1979) in which Israel agreed to return Sinai to Egypt.
In 1982, Israeli army invaded Lebanon with the objective to expel of expelling the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) from the country. During this military invasion, Christian militias backed by Israel carried out a massacre of Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Shatila
In 1987, the first Intifada
, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in a Gaza refugee camp, quickly spreading into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The intifada led to the commencement of the 1991 Madrid conference
In 1993, secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO leadership resulted in the signing of the Oslo accords
by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat
and US President Bill Clinton. As a result, , the Palestinian leadership represented by the PLO returned from exile in Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority was established under Arafat.
The peace talks broke down again at the 2000 Camp David
summit where a final status settlement between Palestinians and Israel was on the table. With the deteriorating peace process, and a provocative visit of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon
to the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) on September 28, 2000, the second Intifada
erupted. Four years later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
officially declared an end of armed confrontation against Israeli forces at the 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh summit.
In September 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, dismantling Israeli settlements and removing settlers and armed forces.The Gaza disengagement
created a power vacuum, aggravating the security situation and causing a rift between Palestinian factions. Israel did not recognize the Hamas
government after its victory in the parliamentary elections in 2006.
On June 25, 2006, Palestinian armed groups captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the Gaza border. Since then, the Hamas government tried to reach a deal with Israel that would release Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. In June 2007 Israel imposed a blockade
on the Gaza Strip causing a severe deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
On December 27, 2008, the Israeli army initiated a 22-day military invasion into Gaza
killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians. On the Israeli side, there were 13 casualties, including three civilians.