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Posted by sonny 03/01/2009 @ 02:39

Tags : israel, middle east, world

News headlines
Abbas pushing pan-Arab peace with Israel - The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Palestinian president will be pushing President Barack Obama on Thursday to facilitate peace with Israel through a larger solution to the Middle East conflict. Top Palestinian officials traveling with President Mahmoud Abbas said...
'Israel guilty for collapse of truce' - Jerusalem Post
By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT In its 2009 annual report, formally released on Thursday, Amnesty International places sole blame on Israel for the breakdown in the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that led to Operation Cast Lead....
Israel fears a nuclear Iran - San Francisco Chronicle
Israel's Arab neighbors have not waged a full-scale traditional war against Israel since 1973 - in part because there is no longer a nuclear-patron Soviet Union around to threaten the use of nukes should Israel strike too strongly back against its...
Lebanese majority leader considers Israel as enemy - Xinhua
BEIRUT, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese Sunni majority leader Saad Hariri said Wednesday that he is against Israel because it is the enemy, Future TV reported Thursday. "We are neither against Iran nor against Syria, we are only against Israel because it...
Peres tells US senators Israel willing to 'pay price' for peace - Ynetnews
Peres says Israel will evacuate West Bank outposts; Barak acknowledges government cannot dictate US moves on Iran President Shimon Peres met with a US congressional mission in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The delegates, led by Senator Robert Casey,...
Israel debates 'loyalty' law -
The Israeli parliament has passed a preliminary reading of a bill that would mandate the imprisonment of anyone who calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, according to the Jerusalem Post newspaper....
Israel police arrest suspect in US-born teen's slaying - USA Today
Police say the suspect is a 32-year-old from an Arab village in northern Israel, the region where the killings took place. They said Tuesday he was already in custody on suspicion of raping an Australian tourist when a tip led homicide detectives to...
Hezbollah Victory Will Give Israel Sway - Philadelphia Bulletin
By David Bedein, Middle East Correspondent Jerusalem — Should Hezbollah prevail in Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections next month, it could place Lebanon in Israel's crosshairs. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel TV a Hezbollah...
Israel's Delek Group Q1 net profit, revenue fall - Reuters
"Growth was especially significant in the retail automotive sector, the finance sector, the fuel sectors in Israel, the United States and Europe, as well as in the refining," the company said in a statement. Revenue slid to 9.5 billion shekels from...
Mintz Levin names Susan Berson chair of Israel business practice group -
Law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC has named Susan Berson chair of its Israel business practice group. The group was previously chaired by Kenneth Novack. According to the firm, Novack will remain active in the practice group....


Flag of Israel

Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Yisra'el; Arabic: إِسْرَائِيلُ‎, Isrā'īl) officially the State of Israel ( מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (help·info), Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةُ إِسْرَائِيلَ‎, Dawlat Isrā'īl), is a country in the Middle East located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan in the east, and Egypt on the southwest, and contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Also adjacent are the West Bank to the east and Gaza Strip to the southwest. Israel is the world's only Jewish state, with a population of about 7.37 million, of whom about 5.57 million are Jewish. It is also home to other ethnic groups, including most numerously Arab citizens of Israel, as well as many religious groups including Muslims, Christians, Druze, Samaritans and others.

The modern state of Israel has its roots in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), a concept central to Judaism since ancient times, and the heartland of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to which modern Jews are usually attributed. After World War I, the League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine with the intent of creating a "national home for the Jewish people." In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel declared independence and this was followed by a war with the surrounding Arab states, which refused to accept the plan. The Israelis were subsequently victorious in a series of wars confirming their independence and expanding the borders of the Jewish state beyond those in the UN Partition Plan. Since then, Israel has been in conflict with many of the neighboring Arab countries, resulting in several major wars and decades of violence that continue to this day. Since its foundation, Israel's boundaries and the State's right to exist have been subject to dispute, especially among its Arab neighbors and their many Palestinian refugees. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, though efforts for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians have so far been unsuccessful.

Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's legislative body. In terms of nominal gross domestic product, the nation's economy is estimated as being the 44th-largest in the world. Israel ranks highest among Middle Eastern countries on the bases of human development, freedom of the press, and economic competitiveness. Jerusalem is the country's capital, seat of government, and largest city, while Israel's main financial center is Tel Aviv.

Over the past three thousand years, the name "Israel" has meant in common and religious usage both the Land of Israel and the entire Jewish nation. According to the Bible, Jacob is renamed Israel after successfully wrestling with an angel of God.

The earliest archaeological artifact to mention "Israel" (other than as a personal name) is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated the late 13th century BCE), where it refers to the people of the land. The modern country was named Medinat Yisrael, or the State of Israel, after other proposed names, including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel"), Zion, and Judea, were rejected. In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term "Israeli" to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times. According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people, by God, as their homeland; scholars have placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE. According to the traditional view, around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Israelite kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Israelite kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years. The sites holiest to Judaism are located within Israel.

Between the time of the Israelite kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule. Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. In 628/9, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius conducted a massacre and expulsion of the Jews, at which point the Jewish population probably reached its lowest point. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel remained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee, the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period. The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel. That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible, and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the 12th century, Catholic persecution of Jews led to a steady stream leaving Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine. Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement. During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". At the request of Edwin Samuel Montagu and Lord Curzon, a line was also inserted stating "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country". The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish organization known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration. The population of the area at this time was predominantly Muslim Arab, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

The third (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929) brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine. From 1921 the British subjected Jewish immigration to quotas and most of the territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.

The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This caused the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine. By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.

After 1945 the United Kingdom became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. The newly created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city — a corpus separatum — administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status. The Jewish community accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it. On December 1, 1947 the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a 3-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets. Civil war began with the Jews initially on the defensive but gradually moving into offence. The Palestinian-Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled.

On May 14, 1948, the day before the end of the British Mandate, the Jewish Agency proclaimed independence, naming the country Israel. The following day five Arab countries — Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq — invaded Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Morocco, Sudan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia also sent troops to assist the invaders. After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949. During the conflict 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, or about 80% of the previous Arab population, fled the country. The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics. These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958. Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel "doing business" with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with The United Kingdom and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial. The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust, and to date Eichmann remains the only person executed by Israel, although John Demjanjuk was sentenced to die before his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel.

Arab countries over the years refused to regard Israel as having a right to exist, and Arab nationalists led by Nasser called for the destruction of the state. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, Israel achieved a decisive victory in which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

The failure of the Arab states in the 1967 war led to the rise of Arab non-state actors in the conflict, most importantly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was committed to what it called "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated. From 1969 to 1970, Israel fought the War of Attrition against Egypt.

On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses. An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state. In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented. Begin's government encouraged Israelis to settle in the West Bank, leading to friction with the Palestinians in those areas.

On June 7, 1981, Israel heavily bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in Operation Opera, disabling it. Israeli intelligence had suspected Iraq was intending to use it for weapons development. In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence. During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel's neighbors. The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A declared intent was recognition of Israel's right to exist and an end to terrorism. In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.

Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, continuation of settlements, and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions. Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks. While leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords. The country was shocked.

At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it. After the collapse of the talks, the Second Intifada began.

Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert.

In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross border abduction of two Israeli soldiers sparked the Second Lebanon War. The clashes were brought to an end a month later by a ceasefire (United Nations Resolution 1701) brokered by the United Nations Security Council.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to negotiate on all issues and strive for an agreement by the end of 2008. On September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Orchard in Syria, bombing what it suspected to be a nuclear site. In April 2008, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed by Israel in May 2008.

In late December 2008, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed after rockets were fired from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. Israel responded by launching Operation Cast Lead with a series of airstrikes. On 3 January 2009, Israeli Troops entered Gaza marking the start of a ground offensive. On Saturday, January 17, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire, conditional on elimination of further rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, and began withdrawing over the next several days. Hamas later announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings. A reduced level of mortar fire originating in Gaza continues, though Israel has so far not taken this as a breach of the ceasefire.

Israel is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi).

The total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).

Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel, and the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to seventy percent of the nation's population.

East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,040-mi) Great Rift Valley. The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. Further south is the Arabah, ending with the Gulf of Eilat, part of the Red Sea.

Unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula are makhteshim, or erosion cirques. The largest makhtesh in the world is Ramon Crater in the Negev, which measures 40 kilometers by 8 kilometers (25 mi by 5 mi). A report on the environmental status of the Mediterranean basin states that Israel has the largest number of plant species per square meter of all the countries in the basin.

Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Mount Hermon's peak is covered with snow most of the year and Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C or 129 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern parts of the Jordan-valley. From May to September, rain in Israel is rare. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed various water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Israelis also take advantage of the considerable sunlight available for solar energy, making Israel the leading nation in solar energy use per capita.

Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage. The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial. A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which commonly results in coalition governments. Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset often dissolves governments earlier. "The average life span of an Israeli government is 22 months. The peace process, the role of religion in the state, and political scandals have caused coalitions to break apart or produced early elections." The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities. Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure. Israel's legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries. Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel. Israel is the only country in the region ranked "Free" by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the "Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority" was ranked "Not Free." Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries. Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have often disapproved of Israel's human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel's civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

The State of Israel is divided into six main administrative districts, known as mehozot (מחוזות; singular: mahoz) – Center, Haifa, Jerusalem, North, Southern, and Tel Aviv Districts. Districts are further divided into fifteen sub-districts known as nafot (נפות; singular: nafa), which are themselves partitioned into fifty natural regions. For statistical purposes, the country is divided into three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv and Gush Dan (population 3,150,000), Haifa (population 996,000), and Beersheba (population 531,600). Israel's largest city, both in population and area, is Jerusalem with 732,100 residents in an area of 126 square kilometers (49 sq mi). Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon LeZion rank as Israel's next most populous cities, with populations of 384,600, 267,000, and 222,300 respectively.

The Israeli-occupied territories are the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights. They are areas Israel captured from Jordan, Egypt and Syria during the Six-Day War. The term also included the Sinai Peninsula between 1967 and 1982, but it was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Following Israel's capture of these territories, settlements consisting of Israeli citizens were established within each of them. Israel has applied civilian law to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, incorporating them into its territory and offering their inhabitants Israeli citizenship. In contrast, the West Bank has remained under military occupation, and is widely seen — by Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community alike — as the site of a future Palestinian state. Most negotiations relating to the territories have been on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in return for normalization of relations with Arab states, a principle known as "Land for peace".

The West Bank has a population consisting primarily of Arab Palestinians, including historic residents of the territories and refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From their occupation in 1967 until 1993, the Palestinians living in these territories were under Israeli military administration. Since the Israel-PLO letters of recognition, most of the Palestinian population and cities have been under the internal jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and only partial Israeli military control, although Israel has on several occasions redeployed its troops and reinstated full military administration during periods of unrest. In response to increasing attacks as part of the Second Intifada, the Israeli government started to construct the Israeli West Bank barrier, which opponents note is partially built within the West Bank.

The situation of the Gaza strip is different; this area was occupied by Egypt from 1948-1967 and then by Israel from 1967-2005. In 2005, as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Israel removed all of its residents and forces from the territory; the plan also included dismantling four out-lying settlements in the West Bank. However, Israel still controls Gaza's airspace and sea access, and also regulates Gaza's travel and trade with the rest of the world. Inner control of the area is in the hands of the Hamas government.

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 161 countries and has 94 diplomatic missions around the world. Only three members of the Arab League have normalized relations with Israel; Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively, and Mauritania opted for full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Two other members of the Arab League, Morocco and Tunisia, which had some diplomatic relations with Israel, severed them at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000. Since 2003, ties with Morocco have been on the upswing, and Israel's foreign minister has visited the country. Under Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are enemy countries and Israeli citizens may not visit them without permission from the Ministry of the Interior. Since 1995, Israel has been a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which fosters cooperation between seven countries in the Mediterranean Basin and the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The United States, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom and India are among Israel's closest allies. The United States was the first country to recognize the State of Israel, followed by the Soviet Union. It may regard Israel as its primary ally in Southwest Asia, based on shared political and religious values. Although Turkey and Israel did not establish full diplomatic relations until 1991, Turkey has cooperated with the State since its recognition of Israel in 1949. Turkey's ties to the other Muslim-majority nations in the region have at times resulted in pressure from Arab states to temper its relationship with Israel. Germany's strong ties with Israel include cooperation on scientific and educational endeavors and the two states remain strong economic and military partners. India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992 and has fostered a strong military and cultural partnership with the country since then. The UK has kept full diplomatic relations with Israel since its formation having had two visits from heads of state in 2007. It also has a strong trade relationship, Israel being the 23rd largest market. Relations between the two countries were also made stronger by former prime minister Tony Blair's efforts for a two state resolution. The UK is seen as having a "natural" relationship with Israel on account of the British Mandate of Palestine. Iran had diplomatic relations with Israel under the Pahlavi dynasty but withdrew its recognition of Israel during the Iranian Revolution.

The Israel Defense Forces consists of the Israeli Army, Israeli Air Force and Israeli Sea Corps. It was founded during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War out of paramilitary organizations – chiefly the Haganah – that preceded the establishment of the state. The IDF also draws upon the resources of the Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), which works with the Mossad and Shabak. The involvement of the Israel Defense Forces in major wars and border conflicts has made it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world.

The majority of Israelis are drafted into the military at the age of eighteen. Men serve three years and women serve two years. Following compulsory service, Israeli men join the reserve forces and do several weeks of reserve duty every year until their forties. Most women are exempt from reserve duty. Arab citizens of Israel (except the Druze) and those engaged in full-time religious studies are exempt from military service, although the exemption of yeshiva students has been a source of contention in Israeli society for many years. An alternative for those who receive exemptions on various grounds is Sherut Leumi, or national service, which involves a program of service in hospitals, schools and other social welfare frameworks. As a result of its conscription program, the IDF maintains approximately 168,000 active troops and an additional 408,000 reservists.

The nation's military relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems designed and manufactured in Israel as well as some foreign imports. The United States is a particularly notable foreign contributor; they are expected to provide the country with $30 billion in military aid between 2008 and 2017. The Israeli- and U.S.-designed Arrow missile is one of the world's only operational anti-ballistic missile systems. Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has developed a network of reconnaissance satellites. The success of the Ofeq program has made Israel one of seven countries capable of launching such satellites. The country has also developed its own main battle tank, the Merkava. Since its establishment, Israel has spent a significant portion of its gross domestic product on defense. In 1984, for example, the country spent 24% of its GDP on defense. Today, that figure has dropped to 7.3%.

Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity toward its nuclear capabilities, though it is widely regarded as possessing nuclear weapons. After the Gulf War in 1991, when Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles, a law was passed requiring all apartments and homes in Israel to have a mamad, a reinforced security room impermeable to chemical and biological substances.

Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. The country has been ranked highest in the region on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America. In 2007, Israel had the 44th-highest gross domestic product and 22nd-highest gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) at US$232.7 billion and US$33,299, respectively. In 2007, Israel was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes cooperation between countries that adhere to democratic principles and operate free market economies.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling US$47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached US$42.86 billion. Israel is a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received economic aid from the United States, whose loans account for the bulk of Israel's external debt. In 2007, the United States approved another 30 Billion dollars in aid to Israel over the next ten years.

Tourism, especially religious tourism, is another important industry in Israel, with the country's temperate climate, beaches, archaeological and historical sites, and unique geography also drawing tourists. Israel's security problems have taken their toll on the industry, but the number of incoming tourists is on the rebound.

Israel has the highest school life expectancy in Southwest Asia, and is tied with Japan for second-highest school life expectancy on the Asian continent (after South Korea). Israel similarly has the highest literacy rate in Southwest Asia, according to the United Nations. The State Education Law, passed in 1953, established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra orthodox, communal settlement schools, and Arab schools. The public secular is the largest school group, and is attended by the majority of Jewish and non-Arab pupils in Israel. Most Arabs send their children to schools where Arabic is the language of instruction.

Education is compulsory in Israel for children between the ages of three and eighteen. Schooling is divided into three tiers – primary school (grades 1–6), middle school (grades 7–9), and high school (grades 10–12) – culminating with Bagrut matriculation exams. Proficiency in core subjects such as mathematics, Bible, Hebrew language, Hebrew and general literature, English, history, and civics is necessary to receive a Bagrut certificate. In Arab, Christian and Druze schools, the exam on Biblical studies is replaced by an exam in Islam, Christianity or Druze heritage. In 2003, over half of all Israeli twelfth graders earned a matriculation certificate.

Israel's eight public universities are subsidized by the state. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel's oldest university, houses the Jewish National and University Library, the world's largest repository of books on Jewish subjects. In 2006, the Hebrew University was ranked 60th and 119th in two surveys of the world's top universities. Other major universities in the country include the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Israel's seven research universities (excluding the Open University) have been ranked in the top 500 in the world. Israel ranks third in the world in the number of citizens who hold university degrees (20 percent of the population). During the 1990s, an influx of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union (forty percent of whom were university graduates) helped boost Israel's high-tech sector. Israel has produced four Nobel Prize-winning scientists and publishes among the most scientific papers per capita of any country in the world. In 2003, Ilan Ramon became Israel's first astronaut, serving as payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Israel has embraced solar energy, its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world. Over 90% of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita in the world. According to the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the country saves an estimated 2 million barrels of oil a year because of its solar energy use. The high annual incident solar irradiance at its geographic latitude creates ideal conditions for what is an internationally renowned solar research and development industry in the Negev Desert.

As of 2008, Israel's population is 7.28 million. Of those, over 260,000 Israeli citizens lived in the West Bank settlements such as Ma'ale Adumim and Ariel, and communities that predated the establishment of the State but were re-established after the Six-Day War, in cities such as Hebron and Gush Etzion. 18,000 Israelis live in the Golan Heights. In 2006, there were 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem. The total number of Israeli settlers is over 500,000 (6.5 % of the Israeli population). Approximately 7,800 Israelis lived in settlements in the Gaza Strip until they were evacuated by the government as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.

Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and spoken by the majority of the population. Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands. Most Israelis can communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are in English and many schools begin to teach English in the early grades. As a country of immigrants, dozens of languages can be heard on the streets of Israel. A large influx of people from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have made Russian and Amharic widely spoken in Israel. Between 1990 and 1994, the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union increased Israel's population by twelve percent. Over the last decade, immigration flows have also included significant numbers of workers from countries such as Romania, Thailand, China, and a number of countries in Africa and South America; gauging precise numbers is difficult because of the presence of "undocumented" immigrants, but estimates run in the region of 200,000. Retention of Israel's population since 1948 is about even or greater, when compared to other countries with mass immigration. Emigration from Israel (yerida) to other countries, primarily the United States and Canada, is described by demographers as modest but is often cited by Israeli government ministries as a major threat to Israel's future.

Making up 16.2% of the population, Muslims constitute Israel's largest religious minority. About 2% of the population are Christian and 1.5% are Druze. Members of many other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, maintain a presence in Israel, albeit in small numbers. The Christian population includes both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews.

The city of Jerusalem is of special importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians as it is the home of sites that are pivotal to their religious beliefs, such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other landmarks of religious importance are located in the West Bank, among them the birthplace of Jesus and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith and the Shrine of the Báb are located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa and the leader of the faith is buried in Acre. Apart from maintenance staff, there is no Bahá'í community in Israel, although it is a destination for pilgrimages. Bahá'í staff in Israel do not teach their faith to Israelis following strict policy.

Israel's diverse culture stems from the diversity of the population: Jews from around the world have brought their cultural and religious traditions with them, creating a melting pot of Jewish customs and beliefs. Israel is the only country in the world where life revolves around the Hebrew calendar. Work and school holidays are determined by the Jewish holidays, and the official day of rest is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Israel's substantial Arab minority has also left its imprint on Israeli culture in such spheres as architecture, music, and cuisine.

Israeli literature is primarily poetry and prose written in Hebrew, as part of the renaissance of Hebrew as a spoken language since the mid-19th century, although a small body of literature is published in other languages, such as Arabic and English. By law, two copies of all printed matter published in Israel must be deposited in the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2001, the law was amended to include audio and video recordings, and other non-print media. In 2006, 85 percent of the 8,000 books transferred to the library were in Hebrew. The Hebrew Book Week (He: שבוע הספר) is held each June and features book fairs, public readings, and appearances by Israeli authors around the country. During the week, Israel's top literary award, the Sapir Prize, is presented. In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with German Jewish author Nelly Sachs.

Israeli music contains musical influences from all over the world; Yemenite music, Hasidic melodies, Arabic music, Greek music, jazz, and pop rock are all part of the music scene. The nation's canonical folk songs, known as "Songs of the Land of Israel," deal with the experiences of the pioneers in building the Jewish homeland. Among Israel's world-renowned orchestras is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been in operation for over seventy years and today performs more than two hundred concerts each year. Israel has also produced many musicians of note, some achieving international stardom. Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Ofra Haza are among the internationally acclaimed musicians born in Israel. Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest nearly every year since 1973, winning the competition three times and hosting it twice. Eilat has hosted its own international music festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, every summer since 1987.

Continuing the strong theatrical traditions of the Yiddish theater in Eastern Europe, Israel maintains a vibrant theatre scene. Founded in 1918, Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv is Israel's oldest repertory theater company and national theater.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is one of Israel's most important cultural institutions and houses the Dead Sea scrolls, along with an extensive collection of Judaica and European art. Israel's national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, houses the world's largest archive of Holocaust-related information. Beth Hatefutsoth (the Diaspora Museum), on the campus of Tel Aviv University, is an interactive museum devoted to the history of Jewish communities around the world. Apart from the major museums in large cities, there are high-quality artspaces in many towns and kibbutzim. Mishkan Le'Omanut on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad is the largest art museum in the north of the country.

Sports and physical fitness have not always been paramount in Jewish culture. Athletic prowess, which was prized by the ancient Greeks, was looked down upon as an unwelcome intrusion of Hellenistic values. Maimonides, who was both a rabbi and a physician, emphasized the importance of physical activity and keeping the body in shape. This approach received a boost in the 19th century from the physical culture campaign of Max Nordau, and in the early 20th century when the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook, declared that "the body serves the soul, and only a healthy body can ensure a healthy soul".

The Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style event for Jewish athletes, was inaugurated in the 1930s, and has been held every four years since then. The most popular spectator sports in Israel today are association football and basketball. In 1964 Israel hosted and won the Asian Nations Cup.

In the Seventies Israel was excluded from the 1978 Asian Games following the organizers' refusal to invite the country as a result of pressure by participating middle eastern countries. The exclusion led Israel to shift from Asia to Europe and cease competing in Asian competitions. In 1994, UEFA agreed to admit Israel and all Israeli sporting organizations now compete in Europe. Ligat ha'Al is the country's premier soccer league, and Ligat HaAl is the premier basketball league. Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. has won the European championship in basketball five times.

Beersheba has become a national chess center and home to many chess champions from the former Soviet Union. The city hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005, and chess is taught in the city's kindergartens. In 2007, an Israeli tied for second place in the World Chess Championship.

To date, Israel has won seven Olympic medals since its first win in 1992, including a gold medal in windsurfing at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Israel has won over 100 gold medals in the Paralympic Games and is ranked about 15th in the all time medal count. The 1968 Summer Paralympics were hosted by Israel.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Foreign relations of Israel

Coat of arms of Israel

The foreign relations of Israel refers to diplomatic relations and international agreements between the State of Israel and other countries around the world. Israel joined the United Nations on May 11, 1949. Today, Israel has diplomatic ties with 162 foreign countries. Since 1967, diplomatic relations have been established with several Arab and Muslim countries. High priorities in Israeli foreign policy are ending the Arab-Israeli conflict and promoting commercial and cultural exchange with other countries.

After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish state experienced diplomatic isolation and Arab League boycotts. Currently Israel has diplomatic relations with 163 countries. All Lusophone countries, including Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Cape Verde, maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, as well as Equatorial Guinea.

Israel has no diplomatic relations with 36 countries, 20 of them members of the 22-member Arab League.

On January 14, 2009, Bolivia and Venezuela suspended diplomatic ties with Israel.

On January 16, 2009, Qatar and Mauritania suspended ties with Israel, both political and economic. The move came after following Bashar al-Assad and Khaled Meshaal called on all Arab states to break ties with the Jewish state, in protest against Israel's offensive in Gaza, in Doha, Qatar.

The United Arab Emirates and Comoros partially recognizes Israel, which only have trade mutual relations with Israel.

In October 2000, Israeli diplomatic missions in Bahrain, Morocco and Oman were closed as these countries suspended relations with Israel, although trade and economic ties continue. Israel's warm relations with Morocco's King Hassan II are worthy of note. Despite the lack of full diplomatic relations, Hassan worked behind the scenes to promote Israel-Arab peace from the 1970s onward. When he died in 1999, then-prime minister Ehud Barak and the Moroccan-born foreign minister, David Levy, flew to Rabat for his funeral.

Indonesia and Malaysia partially recognize Israel, but the countries have trade and economic mutual relations and cooperation.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic of Western Sahara partially recognizes Israel.

Relations between Israel and Angola are primarily based on trade and pro-United States foreign policies, and are excellent. In March 2006, the trade volume between the two countries amounted to $400 million. The Israeli ambassador to Angola is Avraham Benjamin. In 2005, President José Eduardo dos Santos visited Israel.

Israeli-Eritrean relations are close, and Israeli officers possibly helped lead Eritrean troops in the Hanish Islands during the Hanish Islands conflict with Yemen. Reportedly, the president of Eritrea visited Israel for medical treatment.

Relations between Israel and the Union of South Africa were established as early as 1948, the Nationalist Prime Minister Daniel François Malan paying a visit to Israel and "forgetting" about the clearly antisemitic profile his own party earned during the 1930s and by its opposition to joining in the Anti-Hitlerite coalition in World War II. After the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, Israel became one of the loudest critics of South African apartheid regime, which, along with Israel's intensive cooperation with the newly independent Sub-Saharan states, brought about a break in relations with Pretoria. After 1967, however, and particularly in the 1970s, Israel became Pretoria's strategic partner. Israel joined the West only in the late 1980s in boycotting South Africa before the collapse of apartheid. Relations between modern-day Israel and South Africa are increasingly warm, although South Africa has been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

Israel-Zimbabwe relations are extraordinarily poor with the state-run publication, The Herald, questioning the legitimacy of Israel's existence. The Zimbabwean government recognizes an independent Palestinian state and advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Mugabe government strongly supported the PLO under Yasser Arafat in the 1980s. Zimbabwe formally established relations with the PLO in March 1983. Ali Halimeh served as the PLO's ambassador to Zimbabwe from 1983 to the 1990s. Israeli relations with apartheid-era South Africa, built up in the 1970s by SA Prime Minister John Vorster, fueled Zimbabwe's verbal support for the PLO and comparisons of Zionism to apartheid.

Israel has full diplomatic relations with Egypt (the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was signed in 1979) and Jordan (the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed in 1994). If a passport shows any evidence of travel to Israel, barring a diplomatic passport, the holder is forbidden entry to some Arab and Muslim states.

On October 1, 1994, the Gulf States publicly announced their support for a review of the Arab boycott, in effect abolishing the secondary and tertiary boycotts against Israel. Israel has diplomatic relations with 9 non-Arab Muslim states and with 39 of the 43 Sub-Saharan African states that are not members of the Arab League.

Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, diplomats had been discussing the possibility of improved relations between Israel and Iraq. However, then-Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi said in 2004 that Iraq would not establish ties with Israel.

In 2005, Saudi Arabia announced the end of its ban on Israeli goods and services, mostly due to its application to the World Trade Organization, where one member country cannot have a total ban on another. However, as of summer 2006 Saudi boycott was not cancelled.

Since independence, Armenia has received support from Israel and today remains one of its major trade partners. While both countries have diplomatic relations, neither maintains an embassy in the other country. Instead, Ehud Moshe Eytam, the Israeli ambassador to Armenia is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and visits the capital Yerevan twice a month. Israel has recognized 10 Armenians as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, but does not recognize the Armenian Genocide because of its complicated relationship with Turkey, which is one of the few countries in the Middle East that recognizes Israel's right to exist.

Azerbaijani-Israeli relations are good, and Israel has an embassy in Baku. In May 1999, the U.S.-Azerbaijan Council sponsored a seminar to discuss relations among Azeris, Jews, and Israel. In April 2000, an Israeli trade delegation visited Baku to discuss ways of strengthening bilateral economic relations.

Many Azerbaijanis express the hope that friendship with Israel may help to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and expedite Azerbaijan's integration with the West. The Azerbaijan-Israel Friendship Society facilitates and promotes bilateral diplomatic and business links. In October 2001, President Aliyev pledged to open an embassy in Israel and send his Foreign Minister to visit the country. Although neither has occurred, Azerbaijani-Israeli strategic cooperation continues to grow.

For many years, Azerbaijan has maintained high rates of immigration to Israel due to the economic and political situation in the country. In 2002, 475 Jews made aliyah and 111 immigrated to the United States. The Azeri government gets regular updates from Israel regarding Azeri Jews in Israel, who are plagued by unemployment, crime, and other social issues as new immigrants in Israel.

On January 9, 1950, the Israeli government extended recognition to the People's Republic of China, but diplomatic relations were not established until January 1992.

Israel has provided China with technological assistance in the areas of advanced agriculture and irrigation. Bilateral R&D projects, supported by the China-Israel Agricultural Research Fund, are focused on the development of new varieties of fruit and vegetables, agricultural biotechnology and applying modern technologies for processing fresh produce. Israel has built three major demonstration farms in China and several training centers which are supported by both Chinese and Israeli ministries of agriculture.

Israel has also provided China with military assistance, expertise and technology. According to a report from the US-China Security Review Commission, "Israel ranks second only to Russia as a weapons system provider to China and as a conduit for sophisticated military technology, followed by France and Germany." Israel was ready to sell China the Phalcon, an Israeli airborne early-warning radar system (AWACS), until the United States forced it to cancel the deal.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, cultural exchange has been a major component of the bilateral relations, as both sides recognise the importance of creating a strong foundation based on their ancient and rich histories. In 2007, China launched a countrywide "Festival of Culture" in Israel to mark 15 years of relations.

Relations between Israel and Georgia are, as of 2008, close. Georgia's defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili is a former Israeli. Israel has been selling weapons to Georgia for seven years financed by grants from the USA Included in these weapons are Israeli-built spy drones provided through the former mayor of Tel Aviv, Roni Milo, which flew into Russia and Iran Israeli advisors, estimated to number between 100 - 1,000, have trained the Georgian military for some time. Also, two airfields in Georgia have been earmarked for possible use by Israeli bombers in case of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

India established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel in 1992 and has since become Israel's strongest ally in Asia. The two countries cooperate in anti-terrorist activities in the Middle East and Southern Asia. Israel is India's largest arms provider and India is Israel's principal arms market, and the trade volume between the two countries has increased significantly in the past few years. Co-operation has taken place in the space sector as well with India launching Israeli satellites.

Relations between Israel and Iran have alternated from close political alliances between the two states during the era of the Pahlavi dynasty to hostility following the rise to power of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Currently, the countries do not have diplomatic relations with each other, due to Iran's withdrawal of its recognition of Israel.

Comments made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were perceived by Israel as threat of destruction.

A large population of Iranian Jews reside in Israel, among them former President of Israel Moshe Katsav, former Chief of Staff / Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and former Chief of staff Dan Halutz.

Pakistan has stated it will not recognize the State of Israel until a Palestinian nation-state is created. In 2003, President Pervez Musharraf raised the issue of possible diplomatic relations with Israel, and in 2005 the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks for the first time. However, following the meeting Musharraf said Pakistan will not recognise the state of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established, - although, according to Musharraf, Pakistan will eventually recognise Israel.

On May 15, 1952, diplomatic relations were established with Japan at a Legation level. However, the Japanese government refrained from appointing a Minister Plenipotentiary to Israel until 1955. Relations between the two states were distant at first, but after 1958, no break occurred, despite the Arab oil embargo on several countries, including Japan.

On November 29, 1947, the Philippines was the only Asian nation to support the partition resolution at the United Nations creating a Jewish State in Palestine. Israel and the Philippines established full diplomatic relationships in 1957. Embassies were opened in Tel-Aviv and Manila in 1962. The two countries have enjoyed warm relations in all spheres. In 1997, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) institutionalizing the bilateral political dialogue between the respective foreign ministries. The political dialog is accompanied by cooperation in trade and economy, culture, technical assistance, science, academic exchanges, tourism etc. There are between 37,155-50,000 Filipino workers in Israel as of 2004.

Israel-Nepal relations, first established in 1960, are based on mutual security concerns. Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal from 1959 to 1960, had a strongly pro-Israel foreign policy. King Mahendra visited Israel in 1963 and maintained Koirala's special relationship.

Singapore and Israel have strong bilateral ties and have enjoyed close relations from the outset. This is in part due to both countries' perceptions of themselves as regional economic powerhouses surrounded by much larger Islamic countries with which they have an uneasy relationship. During Singapore's sudden independence (as a consequence of being expelled from Malaysia), Singapore appealed to the international community for technical assistance and military aid. Israel send over a mission to jumpstart Singapore's economy and create, from scratch, Singapore's armed forces and its Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), the former modeled after the IDF in both doctrine and order of battle.

Today both countries have extensive economic ties and engage in a high volume of trade, with an emphasis on technology and research and development in the spheres of bio-technology and defense.

Israel's national airline El Al does not fly to Singapore as Singapore is located in the region of Indonesia and Malaysia both of which are hostile to Israel and do not allow overflight rights for Israeli aircraft.

Israel has had diplomatic representation in Singapore since its earliest days, with representation formalised in 1968. Singapore is a regional hub for Israeli businesses, while a growing number of members of both business communities seek opportunities for joint ventures in biotechnology, IT and the software industries.

Several bilateral agreements provide a solid framework for cooperation in areas such as healthcare, defence, and technological research & development. Most recently, in 1997, a bi-national fund for financing new technological products was set up, an indicator of deepening bilateral relations between both states.

Cultural exchanges have been accentuated by encouraging the participation of Israeli artists in international events in Singapore, cultivating a broad interest in Israeli performing arts. The yearly Film Festival has grown to become a cornerstone in the structured framework of activities.

Thailand and Israel have had full diplomatic relations since 23 June 1954. The Israeli embassy was opened in 1958 while the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv only opened in 1996. Since the beginning, both countries have enjoyed strong ties and beneficial bilateral cooperation in many fields, most notably in agriculture and education. Thousands of Thai academics have been sent to train in Israel while many Thai schools have been modeled after Israel's experience and know-how with aid from MASHAV.

State visits by Thai royalty to Israel have been reciprocated by Israel's public figures as well as over 100,000 Israeli tourists visiting Thailand in 2003. Thousands of skilled and unskilled Thai workers are also employed in Israel and many Thai students study in Israel.

There is also a Thai-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Thai-Israel Friendship Foundation as well as a small community of Israelis living in Thailand.

Canada's relationship with Israel began in 1947, when Canada was represented on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Canada and 32 other countries voted in favor of a Jewish state, thus beginning a longstanding relationship with Israel based on a shared commitment to democratic values, understanding, and mutual respect.

The relations between Israel and the United States have evolved from an initial United States policy of sympathy and support for the creation of a Jewish state in 1948 (It was the first country to recognize the establishment of the State) to an unusual partnership that links Israel with the United States trying to balance competing interests in the Middle East region. The United States has been considered Israel's most powerful and supportive ally for almost 40 years and hosts the annual Salute to Israel Parade in New York City.

The United States is Israel's largest trading partner, accounting for 22.4% of Israel's $43.19 billion in imports, and 42.1% of Israel's $40.14 billion in exports annually (2005). The U.S. also provides Israel with $2.4 billion in military assistance annually, which is equivalent to 24.5% of Israel's military expenditures. (2005).

Micronesia is one of the most consistent supporters of Israel (along with the United States) in international affairs. Throughout the history of the United Nations General Assembly, there has always been an "automatic majority" against Israel. The United States has often voted in favour of Israel and in recent years, one other nation has joined Israel's defense — Micronesia.

The foreign policy goals of the Micronesia are primarily linked to achieving economic development and protecting their vast marine environment. Israel was one of the first to welcome Micronesia into the family of nations, even before it became a member of the UN. According to Micronesia's U.N. deputy ambassador, the country has since sought close bilateral relations with Israel in areas such as agriculture, technical training and health care training.

New Zealand has a long history of support for Israel beginning with the Partition Plan in 1947. Since then, most New Zealand governments have been supportive of Israel. The diplomatic relationship has deteriorated in recent years. After 53 years of full diplomatic relations, the Israeli Embassy in Wellington closed in 2002. At one time there were four missions in the South Pacific area in Canberra, Sydney, Wellington and Suva in Fiji. Presently, only Canberra remains open, which is now responsible for New Zealand-Israeli Relations.

The closure in 2004 of the Embassy in Wellington is due to $5.4 million in cost-cuts by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. It is speculated that trade with Arab countries were a major factor in this change of attitude. In June 2004, the New Zealand Government openly criticized Israel's policy of bulldozing Palestinian homes and donated $534,000 to aid homeless Palestinians.

In mid-2004, two suspected Mossad agents were jailed for three months and paid a $35,000 fine for trying on false grounds to obtain a New Zealand passport. High-level visits between the two countries were subsequently cancelled, visa restrictions imposed for Israeli officials, and an expected visit to New Zealand by Israeli president Moshe Katsav was cancelled. More than a year later, Israel apologized and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that it was time to resume friendly diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israel has had diplomatic relations with Cyprus since Israel's independence in 1948, when Cyprus was a British protectorate. Israel and Cyprus’ associations have continued to expand since 1960, the year of Cyprus’ independence. The neighboring countries trade regularly and there are high flows of tourism between them. However, Cypriot politicians have frequently spoken out against Israeli military raids in the Palestinian territories as well as the 2006 Lebanon War, during which Cyprus was forced to manage a heavy flow of refugees and aid out of and in to Lebanon.

Israel and the Czech Republic share a special relationship. Czechoslovakia was one of the few countries to stand up to the Nazis, and the only country to sent aid to Israel in its early years e.g. arms shipments from Czechoslovakia to Israel 1947-1949.

In December 2008 the Czech Air Force wanted to train in desert conditions for the upcoming mission in Afghanistan. No country agreed to help, except Israel. Israel saw it as an opportunity to thank the Czechs for training Israeli pilots when the country was first established.

In the early 1950s, France and Israel maintained close political and military ties as common enemies of Pan-Arab nationalism. France was Israel's main weapons supplier until its withdrawal from Algeria in 1966 removed most common interest from the relationship, and France became increasingly critical of Israel. This new reality became clear when, in the crisis leading up to the Six-Day War in June 1967, Charles de Gaulle's government imposed an arms embargo on the region, mostly affecting Israel, which had relied on France for weapons over the previous decade. Under François Mitterrand in the early 1980s, French-Israeli relations improved greatly. Mitterrand was the first French president to visit Israel while in office.

Israel and Germany maintain a "special relationship" based on shared beliefs, Western values and a combination of historical perspectives. Among the most important factors in their relations is Nazi Germany's role in the genocide of European Jews during the Holocaust.

Germany has become a prime supplier of arms to Israel, including Dolphin submarines. The military co-operation has been discreet but mutually profitable: Israeli intelligence, for example, sent captured Warsaw Pact armour to West Germany to be analysed. The results aided the German development of an anti-tank system.

Both Greece and Turkey recognized the State of Israel in the late 1940s, but were diplomatically represented in Tel Aviv on lower-than-embassy levels. Still, largely for strategic reasons, Israel and Turkey maintained fairly close relations while only interaction between Israel and Greece was minimal. Over the years, Greek relations with Israel have been complicated by the rivalry between Greece and Turkey.

In September 1998, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai denied that Turkey's visiting Prime Minister was seeking Israeli support should fighting break out with Greece over Cyprus."Turkish-Israeli cooperation is not against any other country," Mesut Yilmaz said during a welcoming ceremony with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Greek-Israeli relations were stagnant for almost 45 years. Changes began to occur in 1995 due to several factors. One was Greece's desire to increase its deterrent power vis-a-vis Turkey. Another element was the death of the pro-PLO Prime Minister, Andreas Papandreou in June 1996. The improvement in U.S.-Greece relations also encouraged a shift toward Israel, as did the progress in the Middle East Peace negotiations.

The improvement in relations was reflected in the increase in trade, which doubled between 1989 and 1995. That year Israel exported $200 million worth of chemicals and oil products to Greece and imported $150 million worth of cement, food, and building materials. Israel is, in fact, the Middle East's second largest importer for Greek products.

A Greek-Israeli cooperation agreement on military affairs was concluded as early as December 1994 (predating the Turkish-Israeli agreement of February 1996); however, both sides refrained from activating the agreement. Greece was apparently concerned about alienating the Arab world while Israel did not wish to upset the Turks. Greece and Israel agreed to hold joint naval maneuvers at the end of the summer 1997, but they were indefinitely postponed by the Greeks. The reason given for the postponement was that the Greek navy was busy preventing infiltrations from Albania, and it could not spare a frigate for the exercises.

Full diplomatic relations between Ireland and Israel were established in 1975. As of 2006, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland was Zion Evrony, and the Irish ambassador to Israel was Michael Forbes.

The Irish government followed a similar line to other EU governments during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, with the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, condemning the actions of Israel as "reckless and disproportionate" and calling for an immediate ceasefire on both sides, while also condemning the actions of Hezbollah. During the conflict, a shipment of bombs that attempted to land in the Republic of Ireland from USA to Tel Aviv was denied use of Irish airspace and airfields by the Irish Government. The weapons were part of a series of agreed arms shipments between the United States Government and Israel. The shipments were diverted via Scotland, where they also caused controversy.

Relations between Italy and Israel, traditionally intense, remain strong to this day. There are frequent visits to both countries by respective diplomats, whilst trade is significant. The Israeli Government has followed with great attention the fight against international terrorism pursued by the Italian Government (also in the European arena: the decision of Riva del Garda to insert Hamas in the European list of organizations considered as terrorist). It has also been appreciated what the Italian Presidency has done in the framework of the United Nations on the Middle Eastern issues. Israel also welcomed the coherent and firm line of conduct, in contrasting the emergence of anti-Semitism in every possible form taken by the Italian government.

Italian Culture enjoys a very high standing in Israel with Israelis frequently visiting Italy for education, work, tourism, and scientific and artistic exchanges. In the last ten years 105 books of Italian authors were translated from Italian to Hebrew. A strong community of Italian Jews who have immigrated to Israel have strengthened cultural ties and promoted Italian culture in the country. The Italian Cultural Institute recently initiated and organized a series of activities in the Cultural Center of the Jews of Libyan Origin in Or Yehuda, where recently a course of the Italian language has been launched.

The Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute recently stimulated the creation of a Friends of Italy association which consists of more than 15,000 people. In 2004 the negotiations for the new triennial protocol (2004-2007) of the Bilateral Accord in the Cultural Sector in force as of November 1971. The Italian Cultural Institute operates in Israel as of 1960 with its principal office at Tel Aviv and a separated section in Haifa. The Italian language is being taught in various centers around the country. The total number of students studying in centers under the direct control of the Italian Cultural Institute on 2004 reached 1500, in 150 courses with 30 teachers. If the Dante Alighieri Society courses are considered, the figure reaches 2500 students.

Recently, the possibility of introducing the teaching of the Italian language in various high schools and academic institutes has been successfully negotiated. For the academic year 2005-2006 the Italian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv has achieved an agreement with the Interdisciplinary Center di Herzelya for the opening of three academic courses of Italian Culture and Language. Italian is also being taught in four of the seven universities in Israel: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv University, the Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva and the Haifa University. The average of registrations of young Israeli students to Italian universities stands on about 400 per year, mainly in the sectors of medicine, law, science, politics, architecture, and art. The registrations for courses for the academic year 2004-2005 have seen a major increase of about 10%.

In November 1947, Luxembourg voted in favor of the partition plan to create a Jewish state. Israel and Luxembourg established full diplomatic relations in 1949. Due to Luxembourg's small size, the Israeli embassy is located in Brussels and Luxembourg is represented politically by the Dutch embassy and economically by the Belgian embassy.

Israel and Spain have maintained diplomatic ties since 1986. Relations have been tense since August 2006, after Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attended a protest rally against the war in Lebanon wearing a keffiyeh around his neck. Nevertheless, Israeli exports to Spain are on the rise, totalling $870 million in 2006, and Israeli firms doing business with Spain include the Dead Sea Works, Haifa Chemicals, Amdocs, Comverse and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Also the Spanish foreign minister is going to arrive in Israel for official visit in May 2008.

The establishment of the State of Israel is closely linked with Switzerland: The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897. In addition, 15 other congresses out of a total of 22 were also held in Switzerland. Before the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine, Switzerland maintained a consulate in Jerusalem (accredited to the British Mandate) and a consular agency in Tel Aviv. It recognized the new state in 1949 and opened a consulate in Tel Aviv. This consulate was upgraded to an embassy in 1958. The Swiss community in Israel is the largest in the Asian region, totalling around 12,000 persons.

Israel is one of Switzerland's most important export markets in the Middle East. Bilateral agreements govern relations in many different areas: air connections (1952), trade (1956), extradition (1958), handling of disputes in composition, judicial and arbitration proceedings (1965), abolishment of visas (1967), social security (1984) and double taxation (2002). Since 1993 there has been a free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Israel. After escalation of the Middle East conflict, Switzerland halted arms sales and military cooperation with Israel for several years (2002-2005). This led to a certain cooling off in bilateral relations. Since 2004 there has been regular political dialogue between Switzerland and Israel.

Switzerland has represented Israel's interests in numerous countries such as in Hungary (1967-1989), Guinea (1967-1973), Ceylon/Sri Lanka (1970-1976), Madagascar (1973-1994), Liberia (1973-1983) and Ghana (1973-2002). Conversely, it has represented the interests of Iran (1958-1987) and the Ivory Coast (1973-1986) in Israel. Today it is committed to a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict and respect for international humanitarian law. By supporting programmes for civilian peace-building and dialogue projects, including the Geneva Initiative, Switzerland contributes to the peaceful coexistence of nations in the Middle East. It has also lobbied successfully for inclusion of Magen David Adom in the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

Alongside the United States, Turkey is a close ally of Israel. Turkey was the first Muslim-majority nation to formally recognize the State of Israel, only one year after the Declaration of the Jewish State (March 28, 1949). Israel has been a major supplier of arms to Turkey. Military, strategic, and diplomatic cooperation between Turkey and Israel is accorded high priority by the governments of both countries, which share concerns with respect to the regional instabilities in the Middle East. One explanation for the close relationship is that Israel and Turkey are both Western-style, pluralist democracies in a region (Middle-East) where both countries are ethnically and linguistically isolated. Although diplomatic relations have soured over the past few years, the two countries have patched-up their minor differences, marking a return to good ties that were severely strained in February 2006 when Turkey hosted a delegation from the Palestinian group Hamas.

On a formal visit to Turkey in 2006, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that "Bilateral relations are excellent. Not only on a leader-to-leader level but also on a people-to-people level".

A Turkish diplomat, Selâhattin Ülkümen, is honoured as one of the Righteous Among The Nations for his work in rescuing Jews from Nazi officials on the island of Rhodes, by issuing them Turkish visas and later arranging for their transport to Turkish territory. Another diplomat, Necdet Kent, also rescued Jews from Nazi authorities, for which he was awarded a special medal by the government of the State of Israel.

But however has spoken out against Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008-2009, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Israel to halt and withdraw all of its military operations, and blamed soely Israel for the Gaza crisis, he described it as a "crime against humanity". he had also held negotiations with other Arab nations including, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the conflict is believed to have damaged relations with Israel. The people of Turkey reacted with mass demonstrations against Israel across different cities, with the largest in Istanbul, with at least up to 200,000 people. Weeks after the ceasefire of the conflict, relations between the nations became more straint, when during the World Economic Forum in Davos at 29 January 2009, Prime Minister Erdogan, walked out of the forum in protest. The debate turned politically related to the Gaza conflict, which Erdogan clashed with the Israeli President Shimon Peres beside him over the war, and harshly criticized Israel, and said: "You are killing people." He also accused the moderator of giving extra time for Peres to speak (25 min) in comparison to the maximum of 12-15 minutes.

Ever since its recognized independence in 1948, the United Kingdom and Israel have shared cordial and strongly strategic relations; the two nations share interests in the fields of political cooperation, immigration (seeing as many British Jews migrate to Israel) and economic trade. However, relations between the two countries began as hostile. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Britain detained 8,000 Jewish men of military age attempting to emigrate to Israel in Cyprus, so they could not participate in the fighting. Britain supplied weapons to the Arab states, and almost went to war with Israel. When Israel captured the Negev, the British ministry of defense began to draw up plans for a possible invasion of Israel. British planes spied on Israeli positions, and war between the two countries became even more possible when three British planes flying over Israeli positions were shot down by Israel. However, the two countries began to soften later on, and trade began. Nevertheless, Anglo-Israeli relations became turbulent in the summer of 2006 when Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with many other European leaders criticized IDF airstrikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, which had high civilian casualties. During the current Brown premiership, relations between the two countries continued to remain close.

The Soviet Union voted in favor of the 1947 UN Partition Plan (Resolution 181) which paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel. Within 11 minutes of Israel's declaration of independence, it was recognized by the United States. The Soviet Union followed soon after, along with most of the other Western powers.

The Soviet Union and the other communist states of Eastern Europe (with the exception of Romania) cut diplomatic ties with Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. Relations were restored in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite the fact that hostile Arab countries such as Syria also maintain close ties with Russia. Russia is known to supply Syria with weapons.

Argentina has traditionally maintained a good relationship to Israel. This was however comprimised in 1992 with the terrorist incident at the AMIAcentre. As no investigation followed, the same terrorists orchestrated a second, but more devestating operation in 1994. 107 cassualties resulted from the both of incidents. Nestor Kirschnercalled this a national disgrace, and reopened the files. His wife, and current President of Argentina, maintains a same aproach to the matter.

Colombia and Israel established formal relations in the mid-1950s. In recent years, Colombia has purchased planes, drones, weapons and intelligence systems from Israel. An Israeli company, Global CST won a $10 million contract in Colombia.

Mexico and Israel have had diplomatic relations since January 1950. Throughout the years, they have maintained close relations with each other. In 2000, a free trade agreement was signed between the two nations. Mexico has also purchased arms from Israel and it's one of Israel's closest allies in North America.

Relations have historically been strong, but the bilateral ties have soured under the Presidency of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. The Jewish population in Venezuela, which peaked at 45,000, is now below 15,000 "as a result of severe instability in the country", according to the Israeli Stephen Roth Institute. The Miami Herald, Jewish Times, and Jewish organizations have reported large-scale emigration of Jewish people from Venezuela during the Chávez administration. As a result of the June/July 2006 battles in the Gaza Strip, Venezuela withdrew its ambassador to Israel. The embassy itself remains open and operationalFollowing the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, Venezuela cut its diplomatic ties with Israel.

Bolivia limited its foreign relationship with Israel in the wake of the current strikes of Israel in Gaza. This was the statement of the Bolivian President Evo Morales. Morales is a left oriented poltican and a close friend of the Venzuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The first international organization which the Israeli government joined was the International Wheat Council, established as part of Point Four Program in early 1949. Since May 11, 1949, the State of Israel is a member the United Nations.

Israel is a member of many agencies within the UN, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Israel also participates in other international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Within the UNESCO, Israel is a member of the scientific council of the Informatics program, an active member in the International Hydrologic Plan (IHP) and an active member of the Man and Biosphere programme (MAB).

Israel has joined the European Union Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development and is a member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European Laboratory and Organization for Molecular Biology (EMBP/EMBL/EMBC), the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) since 1994, the International Network for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises. and the Bank for International Settlement in 2003.

Israel is, as of May 2007, a trial member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Israel is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue with NATO. Diplomatic ties are cut in January 2009 following the crisis in the Gaza strip.

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Arab citizens of Israel

Nazareth is a mixed city of Muslims and Christians and the largest Arab city in Israel

Arab citizens of Israel refers to Arabs or non-Jewish Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel. Arab citizens of Israel are often referred to as "Arab Israelis", "Israeli Arabs" or "Palestinian Israelis".

Arab citizens comprise almost 20% of the population of Israel. The majority identify themselves as Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship. Survey data has shown that a majority (62%) of Arab citizens of Israel would prefer to remain Israeli citizens rather than become citizens of a future Palestinian state. Many Arab citizens hold a range of ties, including family ties, to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. There has been relatively greater emphasis on Israeli identity among the Bedouin and Druze, with all of the Druze drafted into compulsory military service and a dwindling number of Bedouin volunteering.

Arabs living in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, occupied and administered by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, are a special case. The residents of East Jerusalem became permanent residents of Israel shortly after the war. Although they hold Israeli ID cards, few applied for Israeli citizenship, to which they are entitled, and most keep close ties with the West Bank. As permanent residents, they are eligible to vote in Jerusalem's municipal elections, although only a small percentage takes advantage of this right. The Druze residents of the Golan Heights are considered permanent residents under the Golan Heights Law of 1981. Few have accepted full Israeli citizenship and the vast majority consider themselves citizens of Syria.

The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics includes Arab permanent residents of Israel who do not hold Israeli citizenship in its census figures. As a result, the number of Arabs in Israel is calculated as 1,413,300 people or 19.7% of the Israeli population (2006). These figures include 250,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem, and 19,000 Druze in the Golan Heights.

Jews who emigrated or were expelled from their historic homes throughout the Arab world following the establishment of Israel in 1948, as well as their Israeli-born sabra descendants, do not identify as Arabs, though they and their ancestors were traditionally Arabic-speaking Jews and a minority of Mizrahi Jews still identify today as Arab Jews. According to Israel's official demographic dichotomy between "Arabs" and Jews, Jews of all backgrounds are officially designated, (collectively and without distinction) solely as Jews, while persons of Arab cultural and/or linguistic heritage of any faith other than Jewish, are designated as "Arabs".

Most Israelis refer to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War as the War of Independence, while most Arab citizens refer to it as the Nakba (catastrophe), a reflection of differences in perception of the purpose and outcomes of the war.

In the aftermath of the 1948 war, British Mandate Palestine was de facto divided into three parts: the State of Israel, the Jordanian-held West Bank, and the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. Of the estimated 950,000 Arabs that lived in the territory that became Israel before the war, over 80% were expelled or fled; some 156,000 remained. Arab citizens of Israel are largely composed of these people and their descendants. Others include some from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who procured Israeli citizenship under family-unification provisions that were recently made significantly more stringent.

Arabs who left their homes during the period of armed conflict, but remained in what had become Israeli territory, were considered to be "present absentees". In some cases, they were refused permission to return to their homes, which were expropriated and turned over to state ownership, as was the property of other Palestinian refugees. Some 274,000, or 1 of every 4 Arab citizens of Israel are "present absentees" or internally displaced Palestinians. Notable cases of "present absentees" include the residents of Saffuriyya and the Galilee villages of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit. The legal efforts by residents of Kafr Bir'im and Iqrit to be allowed to return to their homes have continued into the 21st century.

In Israel, Independence Day takes place on 5 Iyar according to the Hebrew calendar, which means it falls on different dates every year under the Gregorian calendar. Arab citizens of Israel generally mark al-Nakba both on this day, and on May 15th, as do other Palestinians. Druze soldiers, however, were present at Israel's first Independence Day Parade in 1949, and there have since been parades for Druze and Circassians, as well as special events for Bedouins, on Independence Day.

While most Arabs remaining in Israel were granted citizenship, this population was subject to a certain restrictions in the early years of the state.. Travel permits, curfews, administrative detentions and expulsions were part of life until 1966. A variety of legal measures facilitated the transfer of land abandoned by Arabs to state ownership. These included the Absentee Property Law of 1950 which allowed the state to take control of land belonging to land owners who emigrated to other countries, and the Land Acquisition Law of 1953 which authorized the Ministry of Finance to transfer expropriated land to the state. Other common legal expedients included the use of emergency regulations to declare land belonging to Arab citizens a closed military zone, followed by the use of Ottoman legislation on abandoned land to take control of the land.

In 1965, the first attempt was made to stand an independent Arab list for Knesset elections, with the radical group al-Ard forming the United Arab List. The list was banned by the Israeli Central Elections Committee.

In 1966, martial law was lifted completely, and the government set about dismantling most of the discriminatory laws, while Arab citizens were, theoretically if not always in practice, granted the same rights as Jewish citizens.

The Six Day War marked a dramatic turning point in the lives of Israel's Arab citizens. For the first time since Israel's establishment, Arab citizens had contact with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This along with the lifting of military rule, led to increased political activism among Arab citizens.

In 1974, a committee of Arab mayors and municipal councilmen was established which played an important role in representing the community and pressuring the Israeli government. This was followed in 1975 by the formation of the Committee for the Defense of the Land, which sought to prevent continuing land expropriations. That same year, a political breakthrough took place with the election of Arab poet Tawfiq Ziad, a Maki member, as mayor of Nazareth, accompanied by a strong communist presence in the town council. In 1976, six Arab citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces at a protest against land expropriations and house demolitions. The date of the protest, March 30, has since been commemorated annually as Land Day.

The 1980s saw the birth of the Islamic Movement. As part of a larger trend in the Arab World, the Islamic Movement emphasized moving Islam into the political realm. The Islamic movement built schools, provided other essential social services, constructed mosques, and encouraged prayer and conservative Islamic dress. The Islamic Movement began to have an impact on electoral politics particularly at the local level.

Many Arab citizens supported the First Intifada and assisted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, providing them with money, food, and clothes. A number of strikes were also held by Arab citizens in solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The years leading up to the Oslo Peace Process were a time of optimism for Arab citizens. During the administration of Yitzhak Rabin, Arab parties played an important role in the formation of a governing coalition. Increased participation of Arab citizens was also seen at the civil society level. However, tension continued to exist with many Arabs calling for Israel to become a "state of all its citizens", thereby challenging the state's Jewish identity. During the 1999 elections for Prime Minister 94% of the Arab electorate voted for Ehud Barak . However, Barak formed a broad left-right-center government without consulting the Arab parties, disappointing the Arab community.

Tensions between Arabs and the state rose in October 2000 when 12 Arab citizens of Israel and one man from Gaza were killed while protesting the government's response to the Second Intifada. In response to this incident, the government established the Or Commission. The events of October 2000 caused many Israeli Arabs to question the nature of their citizenship. To a large extent, they boycotted the 2001 Israeli Elections as a means of protest. Israeli Arabs boycott of 2001 elections paradoxically helped Ariel Sharon defeat Ehud Barak. In 1999 elections, more than 90 percent of the Israeli Arab minority had voted for Ehud Barak. IDF enlistment by Bedouin citizens of Israel dropped significantly.

During the 2006 Israel Lebanon Conflict, Arab advocacy organizations complained that the Israeli government had invested time and effort to protect Jewish citizens from Hezbollah attacks, but had neglected Arab citizens. They pointed to a dearth of bomb shelters in Arab towns and villages and a lack of basic emergency information in Arabic. Many Israeli Jews viewed the Arab opposition to government policy and sympathy with the Lebanese as a sign of disloyalty.

In October 2006, tensions rose when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert invited a right-wing political party Yisrael Beitenu, to join his coalition government. The party leader, Avigdor Lieberman, advocated the transfer of heavily populated Arab areas (such as Umm al-Fahm) to the Palestinian Authority as part of a peace proposal.

In January 2007 the first non-Druze Arab minister in Israel's history, Raleb Majadele, was appointed minister without portfolio. (Salah Tarif, a Druze, had been appointed a minister without portfolio in 2001). The appointment was criticized by the left, which felt it was an attempt to cover up the Labor Party's decision to sit with Yisrael Beitenu in the government, and by the right, who saw it as a threat to Israel's status as a Jewish state.

In 2006, the official number of Arab residents in Israel - including East Jerusalem permanent residents many of whom are not citizens - was 1,413,500 people, about 20% of Israel’s population. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (May 2003), Muslims, including Bedouins, make up 82% of the entire Arab population in Israel, with around 9% Druze, and 9% Christians.

The national language and mother tongue of Arab citizens, including the Druze, is Arabic and the colloquial spoken language is of the Palestinian Arabic dialect. Knowledge and command of Modern Standard Arabic varies.

Outside of the Bedouin population, traditionally settled communities of Muslim Arabs comprise about 70% of the Arab population in Israel.

According to the Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel, 110,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, 50,000 in the Galilee and 10,000 in the central region of Israel.

The term "Bedouin" ("Badawi" in Arabic) defines a range of nomadic desert-dwelling ethnic groups spanning from the western Sahara desert to the Najd desert including one of its arms, the Negev ("Naqab" in Arabic). Through the latter half of the 19th century, the traditionally pastoral nomadic Bedouin in Palestine began transitioning to a semi-nomadic pastoral agricultural community, with an emphasis on agricultural production and the privatization of tribal lands.

Prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948, there were an estimated 65,000-90,000 Bedouin living in the Negev. The 11,000 who remained were relocated by the Israeli government in the 1950s and 1960s to an area called the siyag ("enclosure" or, "fence") made up of relatively infertile land in the northeastern Negev comprising 10% of the Negev desert. Negev Bedouins, like the rest of the Arab population in Israel, lived under military rule up to 1966, after which restrictions were lifted and they were free to move outside the siyag as well. However, even after 1966 they were not free to reside outside of the siyag; they came to reside within 2% of the Negev and never returned to their former range. Seven government-built townships were established in the siyag area where roughly half of Israel's Bedouin population live today,centered around the largest legal Bedouin locality in Israel, Rahat. The Israeli government encourages Bedouin to settle as permanent residents in these development towns, but the other half of the Negev Bedouin population continues to live in 45 "unrecognized villages," some of which pre-date the existence of Israel. These villages do not appear on any commercial maps, and are denied basic services like water, electricity and schools. It is forbidden by the Israeli authorities for the residents of these villages to build permanent structures, though many do, risking fines and home demolition.

The Druze are members of a sect residing in many countries, although predominantly in mountainous regions in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Druze in Israel live mainly in the north, notably in Carmel City, near Haifa. There are also Druze localities in the Golan Heights, such as Majdal Shams, which were captured in 1967 from Syria and annexed to Israel in 1981.

It is in keeping with Druze religious practice to always serve the country in which they live. So while the Druze population in Israel are Arabic speakers like their counterparts in Syria and Lebanon, they often consider themselves Israeli and unlike the Arab Muslims and Arab Christians in Israel they rarely identify themselves as Palestinians. As early as 1939, the leadership of one Druze village formally allied itself with pre-Israeli militias, like the Haganah. A separate "Israeli Druze" identity was encouraged by the Israeli government who formally recognized the Druze religious community as independent of the Muslim religious community in Israeli law as early as 1957.

The Druze are defined as a distinct ethnic group in the Israeli Ministry of Interior's census registration. While the Israeli education system is basically divided into Hebrew and Arabic speaking schools, the Druze have autonomy within the Arabic speaking branch.

The Druze of British Mandate Palestine showed little interest in Arab nationalism that was on the rise in the 20th century, and did not take part in the early Arab-Jewish skirmishes of the era either. By 1948, many young Druze volunteered for the Israeli army and actively fought on their side. Unlike their Christian and Muslim counterparts, no Druze villages were destroyed in the 1948 war and no Druze left their settlements permanently. Unlike most other Arab citizens of Israel, right-wing Israeli political parties have appealed to many Druze. Ayoob Kara, for example, represented the conservative Likud in the Knesset, and other parties such as Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu have likewise attracted Druze voters. Currently, a Druze MK, Majalli Wahabi of the centrist Kadima, as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is next in line to the acting presidency.

Christian Arabs comprise about 9% of the Arab population in Israel, and approximately 70% reside in the North District (Israel) in the towns of Jish, Eilabun, Kafr Yasif, Kafr Kanna, I'billin, Shefa-'Amr and many reside in Nazareth. Several other villages, including a number of Druze villages such as Hurfeish, Maghar, are inhabited by Christian Arabs. Nazareth has the largest Christian Arab population. There are 117,000 or more Christian Arabs in Israel. Christian Arabs have been prominent in Arab political parties in Israel and these leaders have included Archbishop George Hakim, Emile Toma, Tawfik Toubi, Emile Habibi and Azmi Bishara.

Notable Christian religious figures in Israel include the Melkite Archbishops of the Galilee Elias Chacour and Boutros Mouallem, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, and Munib Younan of the Lutheran Church of Palestine and Jordan.

The only non-Jewish Arab judge to receive a permanent appointment to preside over Israel's Supreme Court is a Christian Arab, Salim Jubran.

The relationship of Arab citizens to the State of Israel is often fraught with tension and can be regarded in the context of relations between minority populations and state authorities elsewhere in the world. Arab citizens consider themselves to be an indigenous people, though this has been disputed by some pro-Israel advocates, like Joan Peters in her book From Time Immemorial. The tension between their Palestinian Arab national identity and their identity as citizens of Israel was famously described by an Arab public figure as, "My state is at war with my nation".

Muslims are not required to serve in the Israeli military, and outside the Bedouin community, very few (around 120 a year) volunteer. Until 2000, each year between 5%-10% of the Bedouin population of draft age volunteered for the Israeli army, and Bedouin were well-known for their unique status as volunteers. The legendary Israeli soldier, Amos Yarkoni, first commander of the Shaked Reconnaissance Battalion in the Givati Brigade, was a Bedouin (born Abd el-Majid Hidr). However today the number of Bedouin in the army may be less than 1%. As over half of the Bedouin population (80,000 out of 160,000) lives in villages unrecognized by the Israeli government and threatened demolition of these 45 villages has become increasingly acute, and as the Israeli government has failed to fulfill promises of equal service provision to Bedouin citizens, willingness among Bedouin to serve in the army has drastically dropped in recent years.

IDF figures indicate that in 2002 and 2003, Christians represented 0.1 percent of all recruits. In 2004, the number of recruits had doubled. Altogether, in 2003, the percentage of Christians serving had grown by 16 percent over the year 2000. The IDF does not publish figures on the exact number of recruits by religious denomination, and it is estimated that merely a few dozen Christians currently serve in the IDF.

Druze often play high-ranking roles in elite guards involved in major operations in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon; Bedouin soldiers tend to occupy roles as Border policemen, keeping Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza (some of whom may be members of their extended family) out of Israel. These realities have facilitated a sharpened division between the Druze and Bedouin communities and the rest of the former and current inhabitants of Historic Palestine.

Arab citizens of Israel form a majority of the population (52%) in Israel's Northern District and about 50% of the Arab population lives in 114 different localities throughout Israel. In total there are 122 primarily if not entirely Arab localities in Israel, 89 of them having populations over two thousand. The seven townships as well as the Abu Basma Regional Council that have been constructed by the government for the Bedouin population of the Negev, are the only Arab localities to have been established since 1948, with the aim of relocating the Arab Bedouin citizens (see above section on Bedouin).

46% of the country’s Arabs (622,400 people) live in predominantly-Arab communities in the north. Nazareth is the largest Arab city, with a population of 65,000, roughly 40,000 of whom are Muslim. Shefa-'Amr has a population of approximately 32,000 and the city is mixed with sizable populations of Muslims, Christians and Druze.

Jerusalem, a mixed city, has the largest overall Arab population. Jerusalem housed 209,000 Arabs in 2000 and they make up some 33% of the city’s residents and together with the local council of Abu Ghosh, some 19% of the country’s entire Arab population.

14% of Arab citizens live in the Haifa District predominantly in the Wadi Ara region. Here is the largest Muslim city, Umm al-Fahm, with a population of 43,000. Baqa-Jatt and Carmel City are the two second largest Arab population centers in the district. The city of Haifa has an Arab population of 9%, much of it in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood.

10% of the country's Arab population resides in the Center District of Israel, primarily the cities of Tayibe, Tira, and Qalansawe as well as the mixed cities of Lod and Ramla which have mainly Jewish populations.

Of the remaining 11%, 10% live in Bedouin communities in the northwestern Negev Desert. The Bedouin city of Rahat is the only Arab city in the South District and it is the third largest Arab city in Israel.

The remaining 1% of the country's Arab population lives in cities that are almost entirely Jewish such as, Nazaret Illit with an Arab population of 9% and Tel Aviv-Yafo, 4%.

Arabs make up the majority of the population of the "heart of the Galilee" and of the areas along the Green Line including the Wadi Ara region. Bedouin Arabs make up the majority of the northeastern section of the Negev Desert.

In the northern part of Israel the percentage of Jewish population is declining. The increasing population of Arabs within Israel, and the majority status they hold in two major geographic regions — the Galilee and the Triangle — has become a growing point of open political contention in recent years. Dr. Wahid Abd Al-Magid, the editor of Al-Ahram Weekly's "Arab Strategic Report" predicts that "The Arabs of 1948 (i.e. Arabs who stayed within the bounds of Israel and accepted citizenship) may become a majority in Israel in 2035, and they will certainly be the majority in 2048." Among Arabs, Muslims have the highest birth rate, followed by Druze, and then Christians. The phrase demographic threat (or demographic bomb) is used within the Israeli political sphere to describe the growth of Israel's Arab citizenry as constituting a threat to its maintenance of its status as a Jewish state with a Jewish demographic majority.

The term "demographic bomb" was famously used by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2003 when he noted that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent, Israel will not be able to maintain a Jewish demographic majority. Netanyahu's comments were criticized as racist by Arab Knesset members and a range of civil rights and human rights organizations, such as the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Even earlier allusions to the "demographic threat" can be found in an internal Israeli government document drafted in 1976 known as The Koenig Memorandum, which laid out a plan for reducing the number and influence of Arab citizens of Israel in the Galilee region.

The Lieberman Plan caused a stir among Arab citizens of Israel, which explicitly treats them as an enemy within. Various polls show that Arabs in Israel do not wish to move to the West Bank or Gaza if a Palestinian state is created there.

Right-wing Jewish critics of the Wadi Ara land swap plan have argued that this measure will not be enough since "The number of Arab Israelis would drop by 116,000-148,000, or a total of 8.2-10.5 percent of the Arab population of Israel, and just 2.1 percent of the population in general," rather than emptying Israel of all Arabs.

A January 2006 study rejects the "demographic time bomb" threat based on statistical data that shows Jewish births have increased while Arab births have begun to drop. The study noted shortcomings in earlier demographic predictions (for example, in the 1960s, predictions suggested that Arabs would be the majority in 1990). The study also demonstrated that Christian Arab and Druze birth rates were actually below those of Jewish birth rates in Israel. The study used data from a Gallup poll to demonstrate that the desired family size for Arabs in Israel and Jewish Israelis were the same. The study's population forecast for 2025 predicted that Arabs would comprise only 25.0% of the Israeli population. Nevertheless, the Bedouin population, with its high birth rates, continues to be perceived as a threat to a Jewish demographic majority in the south, and a number of development plans, such as the Blueprint Negev, address this concern.

Israel's Declaration of Independence called for the establishment of a Jewish state with equality of social and political rights, irrespective of religion, race or sex.

The rights of citizens are guaranteed by a set of Basic Laws (Israel does not have a written constitution). Although this set of laws does not explicitly include the term "right to equality", the Israeli Supreme Court has consistently interpreted "Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty" and "Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation (1994)" as guaranteeing equal rights for all Israeli citizens.

The website for the Israeli government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that "Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel with equal rights" and states that "The only legal distinction between Arab and Jewish citizens is not one of rights, but rather of civic duty. Since Israel's establishment, Arab citizens have been exempted from compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)." Druze and Circassians are drafted into the Israeli army, while other Arabs may serve voluntarily; however, only a very small number of Arabs choose to volunteer for the Israeli army.

Many Arab citizens feel that the state, as well as society at large, not only actively limits them to second-class citizenship, but treats them as enemies, impacting their perception of the de jure versus de facto quality of their citizenship. The joint document The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, asserts: "Defining the Israeli State as a Jewish State and exploiting democracy in the service of its Jewishness excludes us, and creates tension between us and the nature and essence of the State." The document explains that by definition the "Jewish State" concept is based on ethnically preferential treatment towards Jews enshrined in immigration (the Law of Return) and land policy (the Jewish National Fund), and calls for the establishment of minority rights protections enforced by an independent anti-discrimination commission.

The Jewish National Fund is a private organization established in 1901, to buy and develop land in the Land of Israel for Jewish settlement; land purchases were funded by donations from world Jewry exclusively for that purpose. A significant portion of JNF lands were originally properties left behind by Palestinian "absentees" and as a result the legitimacy of some JNF land ownership has been a matter of dispute. The JNF purchased these lands from the State of Israel between 1949 and 1953, after the state took control of them according to the Absentee Properties Law. While the JNF charter specifies the land is for the use of the Jewish People, land has been leased to Bedouin herders. Nevertheless, JNF land policy has been criticized as discrimination. When the ILA did lease JNF land to Arabs, it took control of the land in question and compensated the JNF with an equivalent amount of land in areas not designated for development (generally in the Galilee and the Negev), thus ensuring that the total amount of land owned by the JNF remains the same. This was a complicated and controversial mechanism, and in 2004 use of it was suspended. After Supreme Court discussions and a directive by the Attorney General instructing the ILA to lease JNF land to Arabs and Jews alike, in September 2007 the JNF suggested reinstating the land-exchange mechanism. The JNF currently owns 13% of land in Israel.

Although Arabic is de jure one of Israel's official languages, de facto the government has failed to enforce the consistent application of both languages in the public sphere. Government ministries publish all material intended for the public in Hebrew, with selected material translated into Arabic, English, Russian and other language spoken in Israel. There are several laws which secure the Arab population right to receive information in Arabic. For example, a portion of the public television channels' productions must be in Arabic or translated into Arabic; safety regulations in working places must be published in Arabic if a significant number of the workers are Arabs; information about medicines or dangerous chemicals must be provided in Arabic; information regarding the elections must be provided in Arabic and there are other examples. The country's laws are published in Hebrew, and eventually English and Arabic translations are published. Following appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court during the late 90ies, the use of Arabic on street signs and labels increased dramatically. In response to one of the appeals presented by Arab Israeli organizations, the Supreme Court ruled that although second to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the State of Israel, and should be used extensively. Today, while most highway signage is trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic and English) in significant cases only Hebrew is displayed. Many Arab villages lack street signs of any kind and the Hebrew name, rather than the Arabic, is often used. Hebrew is the standard language of communication at places of work except inside the Arab community, and among recent immigrants, foreign workers, and with tourists. Arabic is not a required language in schools. In summer of 2008, right-wing lawmakers presented a bill to strip Arabic of its status alongside Hebrew as an official language of the state.

An Israeli Central Elections Committee ruling which allowed the Progressive List for Peace to run for the Knesset in 1988 was challenged based on this amendment, but the committee's decision was upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled that the PLP's platform calling for Israel to become "a state of all its citizens" does not violate the ideology of Israel as the State of the Jewish people, and thus section 7(a) does not apply.

In December 2002 Palestinian member of Knesset Azmi Bishara and his party, Balad, which also calls for Israel to become "a state of all its citizens," were banned by the Israeli Central Elections Committee, for refusing to recognize Israel as a "Jewish democratic state" and making statements promoting armed struggle against it. The Supreme Court overruled the decision in January 2003. When, in December 2005, Bishara told an audience in Lebanon that Arab citizens "are like all Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them Return Palestine to us and take your democracy with you. We Arabs are not interested in it," this was denial of the democratic nature of the state once more.

The only party currently banned under this law is the right-wing Jewish Kach party.

There are three mainstream Arab parties in Israel: Hadash (a joint Arab-Jewish party with a large Arab presence), Balad and the United Arab List, which is a coalition of several different political organizations including the Islamic Movement. In addition to these, Ahmed Tibi's Ta'al faction has been elected to the last two Knessets as part of alliances with Hadash and the United Arab List. Two Arab parties ran in Israel's first election in 1949, with one, the Democratic List of Nazareth, winning two seats. Until the 1960s all Arab parties in the Knesset were affiliated with Mapai, the ruling party.

A minority of Arabs join and vote for Zionist parties; in the 2006 elections 30% of the Arab vote went to such parties, up from 25% in 2003, though down on the 1999 (30.5%) and 1996 elections (33.4%). Left-wing parties (i.e. Labor Party and Meretz-Yachad, and previously One Nation) are the most popular parties amongst Arabs, though some Druze have also voted for right-wing parties such as Likud and Yisrael Beitenu, as well as the centrist Kadima.

Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages: The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages is a body of unofficial representatives of the 40-something unrecognized villages throughout the Negev Desert region in the south, whose residents have little representation as compared with those in recognized municipalities.

Palestinian Arabs sat in the state's first parliamentary assembly; currently, 12 of the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament are Arab citizens, most representing Arab political parties, and one of Israel's Supreme Court judges is a Palestinian Arab.

In the public employment sphere, by the end of 2002, 6.1% of 56,362 Israeli civil servants were Arab. In January 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that every state-run company must have at least one Arab citizen of Israel on its board of directors.

Cabinet: Nawaf Massalha, an Arab Muslim, has served in various junior ministerial roles, including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, since 1999. Until 2001, no Arab had been included in a Prime Minister's cabinet, or invited to join any political coalition. In 2001, this changed, when Salah Tarif, a Druze Arab citizen of Israel, was appointed a member of Sharon's cabinet without a portfolio. Tarif was later ejected after being convicted of corruption. In 2007 the first non-Druze Arab minister in Israel's history, Raleb Majadele, was appointed a minister without portfolio, and a month later appointed minister for Science, Culture and Sport. The appointment of Majadele was criticized by far-right Israelis, some of whom are also within the Cabinet, but this drew condemnation across the mainstream Israeli political spectrum. Meanwhile Arab lawmakers called the appointment an attempt to "whitewash Israel's discriminatory policies against its Arab minority".

Knesset: Arab citizens of Israel have been elected to every Knesset, and currently hold 12 of its 120 seats. The first female Arab MP was Hussniya Jabara, a Muslim Arab from central Israel, who was elected in 1999.

Supreme Court: Abdel Rahman Zuabi, a secular Muslim from northern Israel, was the first Arab on the Israeli Supreme Court, serving a 9-month term in 1999. In 2004, Salim Jubran, a Christian Arab from Haifa descended from Lebanese Maronites, became the first Arab to hold a permanent appointment on the Court. Jubran's expertise lies in the field of criminal law.

Foreign Service: Ali Yahya, an Arab Muslim, became the first Arab ambassador for Israel in 1995 when he was appointed ambassador to Finland. He served until 1999, and in 2006 was appointed ambassador to Greece. Other Arab ambassadors include Walid Mansour, a Druze, appointed ambassador to Vietnam in 1999, and Reda Mansour, also a Druze, a former ambassador to Ecuador. Mohammed Masarwa, an Arab Muslim, was Consul-General in Atlanta. In 2006, Ismail Khaldi was appointed Israeli consul in San Francisco, becoming the first Bedouin consul of the State of Israel.

Israel Defense Forces: Arab Generals in the IDF include Major General Hussain Fares, commander of Israel's border police, and Major General Yosef Mishlav, head of the Israeli Home Front Command and current Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Both are members of the Druze community.

As of 2008, there were 45 Bedouin villages in southern Israel that are not recognized as legal settlements. The residents of these villages are Israeli citizens, yet lack access to education, health, transportation and municipal trash services. They are not hooked up to the regional water and electrical grids, and homes are subject to demolition. At the start of 2006, the Israeli National Security Council (NSC) publicized a position paper arguing that Negev Arabs hinder development and recommending a fixed time-frame for concentrating all Bedouin into townships. The NSC suggested a removal campaign similar to the eviction of settlers from the Gaza Strip if the government fails to move the Bedouin to the townships within the recommended time-frame.

On July 31, 2003 Israel enacted the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision), 5763-2003, a one year amendment to Israel's Citizenship Law denying citizenship and Israeli residence to Palestinians who reside in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and who marry Israelis; the rule has been waived for any Palestinian "who identifies with the State of Israel and its goals, when he or a member of his family has taken concrete action to advance the security, economy or any other matter important to the State." Upon expiration the law was extended for six months in August 2004, and again for 4 months in February 2005. On May 8, 2005, the Israeli ministerial committee for issues of legislation once again amended the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, to restrict citizenship and residence in Israel only to Palestinian men over the age of 35, and Palestinian women over the age of 25.

Defenders of the Citizenship and Entry Law say it is aimed at preventing terrorist attacks and preserving the "Jewish character" of Israel by restricting Arab immigration. The new bill was formulated in accordance with Shin Bet statistics showing that involvement in terror attacks declines with age. This newest amendment, in practice, removes restrictions from half of the Palestinian population requesting legal status through marriage in Israel. This law was upheld by a High Court decision in 2006.

Although this law theoretically applies to all Israelis, it has disproportionately affected Arab citizens of Israel; Arabs are far more likely to have Palestinian spouses than other Israelis. Thus the law has been widely considered discriminatory and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has unanimously approved a resolution saying that the Israeli law violated an international human rights treaty against racism.

The predominant feature of the Arab community's economic development after 1949 was its transformation from a predominantly peasant farming population to, in large degree, a proletarian industrial workforce. It has been suggested that the economic development of the community was marked by distinct stages. The first period, until 1967, was characterised by this process of proletarianisation. From 1967 on, economic development of the population was encouraged and an Arab bourgeoisie began to develop on the margin of the Jewish bourgeoisie. From the 1980s on, the community developed its economic and, in particular, industrial potential.

In July 2006, the Israeli Government decided to brand all Arab communities in the country as 'class A' development areas, thus making them eligible for tax benefits. This decision aims to encourage investments in the Arab sector.

Raanan Dinur, director-general of Prime Minister office, said in early December 2006 that Israel had finalized plans to set up a NIS 160 million private equity fund to help develop the businesses of the country's Arab community over the next decade. According to Dinur, companies owned by Arab citizens of Israel will be eligible to apply to the fund for as much as NIS 4 million (USD 952,000), enabling as many as 80 enterprises to receive money over the next 10 years. The Israeli government will, according to Dinur, solicit bids to operate the fund from various financial institutes and private firms, which must pledge to raise at least NIS 80 million (about USD 19 million) from private investors.

The New York Times (8 February 2007) affirms, "a recent report on poverty published last year by Israel’s National Insurance Institute indicated that 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Arabs." Of the 40 towns in Israel with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Arab towns. Further, according to the Central Bank of Israel statistics for 2003, for those Arabs citizens who are employed, salary averages are 29% lower than salary averages for Jewish workers. Freedom House reported in 2006 that the fact that the majority of Arabs in Israel does not join the army – making them ineligible for financial benefits, including scholarships and housing loans – may be a factor in inferior access to education, housing, and social services in relation to the Jewish population.

Difficulties in procuring employment have been attributed to a comparatively low level of education vis-a-vis their Jewish counterparts, insufficient employment opportunities in the vicinity of their towns, discrimination by Jewish employers, and competition with foreign workers in fields, such as construction, agriculture, etc. Arab women have a higher unemployment rate in the work force relative to both religious and secular Jewish women. While among Arab men the employment is on par with Jewish men, 17% of Arab women are employed. This puts the Arab employment at 68% of the Israeli average. Druze and Christian Arabs have higher employment than Muslims.

A major factor in the situation of some of the Arab towns can be traced to statistical figures showing that Arab towns in Israel are reluctant to collect city taxes from their residents. "The Arab authorities demand equal rights, but they forget that first of all they have to fulfill the same duties that the Jewish authorities do, first and foremost, to collect tax from the residents," complain Jerusalem circles. Without tax collection, the Arab towns are in a state of perpetual crisis, and all plans and programs to better their lot go nowhere. They can't pay their workers and the distance from there to a nationwide strike is short indeed. Sikkuy, a prominent Arab-Jewish NGO, found that Arabs as a group have the highest home ownership in Israel: 92.6% compared to 70% among Jews.

The most common health-related causes of death are heart disease and cancer. Roughly 14% were diagnosed with diabetes in 2000. Around half of all Arab men smoke.

Life expectancy has increased 27 years since 1948. Further, due largely to improvements in health care, the Arab infant mortality rate dropped from 32 deaths per thousand births in 1970 to 8.6 per thousand in 2000.

However, the Bedouin infant mortality rate is still the highest in Israel, and one of the highest in the developed world. In 2003, the infant mortality rate among Arab citizens overall was 8.4 per thousand, more than twice as high as the rate 3.6 per thousand among the Jewish population. As yet the Israeli government has not seen fit to address this disparity through equitable budget allocations: in the 2002 budget, Israel's health ministry allocated Arab communities less than 0.6% of its 277 m-shekel (£35m) budget (1.6 m shekels {£200,000}) to develop healthcare facilities.

The Israeli government regulates and finances most of the schools operating in the country, including the majority of those run by private organizations. The national school system has two major branches - a Hebrew-speaking branch and an Arabic-speaking branch. The curricula for the two systems are almost identical in mathematics, sciences and English. It is different in humanities (history, literature etc.). While Hebrew is taught as a second language in Arab schools since the third grade and obligatory for Arabic-speaking school's matriculation exams, only basic knowledge of Arabic is taught in Hebrew-speaking schools, usually from the 7th to the 9th grade. Arabic is not obligatory for Hebrew speaking school's matriculation exams. The schooling language split operate from preschool, up through to the end of the high school. At the university level, they merge into a single system, which operates mostly in Hebrew and in English.

The Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education notes that the Israeli government spends an average of $192 per year on each Arab student compared to $1,100 per Jewish student. The drop-out rate for Arab citizens of Israel is twice as high as that of their Jewish counterparts (12 percent versus 6 percent). The same group also notes that there is a 5,000-classroom shortage in the Arab sector.

In 2001, Human Rights Watch issued a report that stated: "Government-run Arab schools are a world apart from government-run Jewish schools. In virtually every respect, Palestinian Arab children get an education inferior to that of Jewish children, and their relatively poor performance in school reflects this." The report found striking differences in virtually every aspect of the education system.

The Arab citizens of Israel live in a reality in which they experience discrimination as Arabs. This inequality has been documented in a large number of professional surveys and studies, has been confirmed in court judgments and government resolutions, and has also found expression in reports by the state comptroller and in other official documents. Although the Jewish majority’s awareness of this discrimination is often quite low, it plays a central role in the sensibilities and attitudes of Arab citizens. This discrimination is widely accepted, both within the Arab sector and outside it, and by official assessments, as a chief cause of agitation.

The Or Commission report also claims that activities by Islamic organizations may be using religious pretenses to further political aims. The commission describes such actions as a factor in 'inflaming' the Muslim population in Israel against the authorities, and cites the al-Sarafand mosque episode, with Muslims' attempts to restore the mosque and Jewish attempts to stop them, as an example of the 'shifting of dynamics' of the relationship between Muslims and the Israeli authorities.

According to The Guardian, in 2006 just 5% of civil servants were Arabs, many of them hired to deal with other Arabs, despite the fact that Arab citizens of Israel comprise 20% of the population.

Although the Bedouin infant mortality rate is still the highest in Israel, and one of the highest in the developed world, The Guardian reports that in the 2002 budget, Israel's health ministry allocated Arab communities less than 0.6% of its budget for healthcare facility development.

According to Bard, "The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This is to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, Bedouins have served in paratroop units and other Arabs have volunteered for military duty. Compulsory military service is applied to the Druze and Circassian communities at their own request." Similarly, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel media monitoring and research organization, argues that since they are not required to serve in military, yet still have all the rights accorded Jews in Israel, Arabs in Israel are at an advantage. As evidence they cite various cases in which Israeli courts have found in favor of Arab citizens.

There are significant tensions between Arab citizens and their Jewish counterparts. As with all such surveys, polls differ considerably in their findings regarding intercommunal relations.

A range of politicians, rabbis, journalists and historians commonly refer to the 20-25% minority of Arabs in Israel as being a "fifth column" inside the state of Israel.

Arab citizens of Israel have been convicted of espionage for Hezbollah and a growing number have taken part in attacks on Jewish citizens, including assistance to Palestinian suicide bombers. On March 1, 2007, two Israeli Arabs were convicted of manslaughter for smuggling a suicide bomber into Israel, enabling him to carry out a suicide attack in Netanya in July 2005 in which five Israeli citizens were killed and 30 wounded. On September 9, 2001, passengers disembarking from a train in Nahariya were attacked by an Israeli Arab, who killed 3 and wounded 90.

Arab citizens have been killed by Israeli security forces in the wake of violent demonstrations and riots, such as the October 1956 Kafr Qasim massacre, which left 48 dead, the March 1976 Land Day demonstrations, which left 6 dead, and the October 2000 events in which 12 Israeli Arabs and one Palestinian from Gaza were killed. In the The Shfar'am attack, four Arab citizens were shot dead on a bus by an AWOL IDF soldier. In December 2007, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel reported a "dramatic increase" in racism against Arab citizens, including a 26 percent rise in anti-Arab incidents. According to ACRI president Sami Michael, "Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy".

On August 22, 2006, 11 Arab tourists from Israel were killed when their bus overturned in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Israel sent Magen David Adom, but the ambulances waited for hours at the border before receiving Egyptian permission to enter and treat the wounded, responsible for at least one of the deaths. The victims say that the driver acted as part of a planned terrorist attack, and are attempting to receive compensation from the government.

Many Arab citizens of Israel share in the culture of the Palestinian people and wider Arab region of which many of them form a part. There are still some women who produce Palestinian cultural products such as Palestinian embroidery, and costume. The Palestinian folk dance, known as the debke, continues to be taught to youth in cultural groups, and is often danced at weddings and other parties.

Linguistically-speaking, the majority of Arabic citizens of Israel are fluently bilingual, speaking both a Palestinian Arabic dialect and Hebrew, and some are trilingual. In Arab homes and towns, the primary language spoken is Arabic. Some Hebrew words have entered the colloquial Arabic dialect. For example, Arabs often use the word beseder (equivalent of "Okay") while speaking Arabic. Other Hebrew words that are regularly interspersed are ramzor (stoplight), mazgan (air conditioner) and mahshev (computer). Arab citizens of Israel tend to watch both the Arab satellite news stations and Israeli cable stations and read both Arabic and Hebrew newspapers, comparing the information against one another.

There are different local colloquial dialects among Arabs in different regions and localities. For example, the Little Triangle residents of Umm al-Fahm are known for pronouncing the kaf sound, with a "ch"-as-in-cheese sound rather than "k"-as-in-kite sound. Some Arabic words or phrases are used only in their respective localities, such as the Nazareth word for "now" which is issa, and silema a local modification of the English word "cinema".

The Palestinian art scene in general has been enriched by the contributions of Arab citizens of Israel. In addition to the contribution of artists such as singer Amal Murkus (from Kufr Yasif) to evolving traditional Palestinian and Arabic music styles, a new generation of Arab youth in Israel has also begun asserting a Palestinian identity in new musical forms. For instance of the Palestinian hip hop group DAM, from Lod, has spurred the emergence of other hip hop groups from Akka, to Bethlehem, to Ramallah, to Gaza City.

Arab citizens of Israel have made significant contributions to both Hebrew and Arabic cinema and theater. Mohammad Bakri, Salim Dau, and Juliano Mer Khamis have starred in Israeli film and television. Directors such as Mohammad Bakri, Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu-Assad and Michel Khleife have put Arab citizens of Israel on the cinematic map. Amsterdam, and Brussels, respectively. Acclaimed Israeli Arab authors include Emil Habibi, Anton Shammas and Sayed Kashua.

A coalition of local groups will hold a rally at the Liberty Bell on Sunday, Jan. 20, in support of American and Israeli military policies in the Persian Gulf crisis. "We'll be coming out on Sunday to say 'God bless America and Israel," said Bertram Korn Jr., executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, one of the sponsors of the rally. "The criminal Iraqi war machine must be permanently disarmed," he added.

To encourage effective advocacy on behalf of Israel, the Center for Israel and Overseas of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will host a daylong program -- its inaugural advocacy event -- on Sunday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Hillel at the University of Pennsylvania, Steinhardt Hall, 215 S. 39th St. in Philadelphia. In the morning will be a panel featuring representatives from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, all of which will discuss "Methodologies on How to Advocate for Israel...Dr. John Cohn, a local physician named Camera's "No. 1 Letter-Writer" in 2004, will serve as moderator of the panel.

CAMERA is looking for fifteen passionately committed undergraduate students with excellent communication skills who can organize pro-Israel events on campus. Students earn $1000 and a free exclusive trip to Israel in June by becoming a CAMERA Fellows Representative.

Their work undoubtedly has impact, but the non-Israel-related groups do not have the same activist focus. They produce studies and polls. It is for this reason that I think pro-Israeli media watching has an importance beyond the cause of Israel. Efforts that induce better adherence to ethical journalism in one subject area are positive generally in helping to strengthen American democracy, especially, again, as there are no enforceable codes of professional conduct in the media. – CAMERA Executive Director Andrea Levin.

While the the pro-Israeli Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, or Camera, studies newpapers for evidence of bias, Palestine Media Watch has been monitoring the coverage of newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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