Israel currently faces the challenge of maintaining and enhancing its basic infrastructure - transportation, energy, water management, housing and telecommunications - all of which form the backbone of its economy. Traditionally the government initiated and fostered these sectors but in recent decades competition and advancement in technology have been encouraged in the private sector.
There is more than one car for every four people in Israel, and there are over 16,000 kilometers of roads.
There are two railway systems in Israel - Israel Railways, which runs from northern to southern Israel, and the Carmelite Railways, which serves the Haifa area. Additionally, there are smaller railway systems being planned for Haifa and Jerusalem.
Egged and Dan are the two major Israeli bus transportation companies. Dan primarily serves the metro Tel Aviv area, which is Israelzzz*zs most populous center. Egged, which operates throughout the country, is the second largest bus operator in the world, transporting about one million people a day.
Israelzzz*zs largest airport is Ben Gurion International Airport located near Tel Aviv. There are six other smaller airports, including the Qalandiya air field, which has fallen into disuse but remains a strategic interest in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s largest airline, El Al, was founded in 1948, and operates 30 Boeing passenger planes.
Israel’s largest industrial ports are located in Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat. The Haifa port is used for shipments to Jordan and Iraq, originating from the United States and Europe.
The Israeli Ministry of Infrastructure oversees the use of fossil fuels through its company, Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures Ltd.
The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is a massive state-owned utility that facilitates virtually all of Israel’s electricity, and much of that used in the occupied Palestinian territories. Power is produced by coal-based power plants.
More than a dozen new natural gas electrical plants are being built throughout the country as environmentally-friendly alternatives. A gas field off the Gaza coast was under negotiation for exploitation by British Gas through the Palestinian Authority, and possible use by Israel. However, a large natural gas reserve was discovered off Israelzzz*zs northern coast in January 2009 and is expected to supply the bulk of the country’s energy demands. The Israeli government also provides incentives for solar power usage.
Water is a politically contentious issue, as the regionzzz*zs main aquifers are located in occupied territory. Israel experiences shortages of fresh water due to its semi-arid climate and over-pumping of its main fresh water source, the Sea of Galilee. The Israeli Water Authority recently announced that by 2070 it expects that the Jordan river, an important fresh water source, will be completely depleted.
The Israel National Water Co., or Mekorot, is the main developer of Israel’s water management technologies. Its projects include the world’s largest reverse-osmosis desalination plant that began operating in 2006 in Ashdod, on the Mediterranean coast. The plant supplies five to six percent of Israel’s total water needs, or 13 percent of its domestic usage. The Administration for the Development of Sewage is currently overseeing the construction and planning of approximately 52 new sewage treatment plants around the country.
The Israeli Land Administration is responsible for 93 percent of the land of Israel. This land, owned by the Jewish National Fund and the Development Agency, can be leased for residential, agricultural or commercial usages for a term of either 49 or 98 years.
The Jewish National Fund also promotes Jewish immigration to Israel, and despite a 2005 High Court ruling that land administration cannot be carried out on the basis of ethnicity, the Israeli Land Administration rarely if ever leases land to Arabs.
The Israeli government intends to invest NIS 3.5 billion over the next 25 years in strengthening public buildings against earthquakes, a serious threat to the region.
In 2010, Macro Center for Political Economics revealed in a study that the cost of construction in illegal West Bank settlements over the last 40 years was a total of USD 17.4 billion. The residential buildings involved the highest cost, nearly USD 13.7 billion (78 percent of the total). The cost of public institutions in the settlements was more than USD 1.1 billion, of which USD 380 million were invested in 644 educational institution and USD 318 million in sports facilities.
Between 2004 and 2008, 6657 new buildings were added to the settlements, 4379 new apartments and 1526 private houses were built. There is a trend that most of the construction in the West Bank settlements is taking place on the west side of the Wall. Between 2004-2008 the addition of the buildings on the west side was 5900, compared to 757 on the east side. According to the study, the explanation why there is much higher construction on the west side of the Wall, lies in the policies of the Israeli government until 2008.
As of 2006, there were no monopolies in the fixed telephone, cell phone, broadband Internet, or cable television industries. Nearly three million fixed landlines were in operation, while the cell phone industry comprised a total of 7.7 million customers. The largest telephone company is still the former monopoly Bezeq while only two major cable television providers are in operation. There are four cell phone providers and five major names in the broadband service industry.