Shimon Peres

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Posted by r2d2 02/27/2009 @ 07:01

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Peres bid pope farewell - Ynetnews
President Shimon Peres bid Pope Benedict XVI farewell at Ben Gurion International Airport on Friday after his five-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In his speech Peres told the pope: "Your journey to the Holy Land was a heartfelt...
Pope urges two states - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Israeli President Shimon Peres called on the pope to use his leadership to repudiate terrorism carried out by religious fanatics. "Nowadays vile fanatics are emerging and are attempting to impose an alternative interpretation of the will of God," Peres...
Presidential demagoguery - Ynetnews
During President Shimon Peres' public relations campaign on behalf of the Netanyahu government, he sank as low as to defend the weakest national-religious-Orthodox bluff: The myth of natural growth as a pretext for settlement construction....
Peres: Netanyahu committed to peace - United Press International
(UPI Photo/Dan Balilty/Pool) WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres says his former rival, Prime Minister Binyamin Netantyahu, will follow through on commitments to reach a Palestinian peace deal. Speaking Monday to the pro-Israel...
US tells Benjamin Netanyahu: no raids on Iran nuke sites - The Australian
Three weeks ago Israel's President Shimon Peres told US special envoy George Mitchell that it was "nonsense" any suggestion that Israel would strike against Iran. But only days before that, Mr Peres had said that if diplomatic efforts by the Obama...
Israeli Embassy Clarified that the Possibility of Avigdor and ... - Itón Gadol
In a dialogue with the Jewish News Agency (AJN, Agencia Judía de Noticias), Yiftah Curiel, an official at the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires, said that “the possibility that the Israeli President Shimon Peres and the Chancellor Avigdor Liberman may...
NGO: Probe Peres' use of private jet in US - Ha'aretz
By Tomer Zarchin The Movement for Quality Government has asked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to investigate President Shimon Peres' use of a private jet belonging to an American businessman who contributed to Peres' 2005 Labor Party primary...
Peres to pope: We may achieve peace this year - Ynetnews
"This year, the year of your visit here, may reveal an opportunity for us and our neighbors to attain peace," President Shimon Peres said as he welcomed Pope Benedict XVI at his official residence in Jerusalem Monday afternoon....
Peres traveled in US on AIPAC bigwig's private jet - Ha'aretz
By Barak Ravid President Shimon Peres and his entourage used a private jet belonging to businessman Daniel Abraham to travel between New York City and Washington during his visit to the United States last week. The president was on official business,...
Security Council voices concern over Gaza report - AFP
During a visit to UN headquarters last week, Israeli President Shimon Peres blasted the UN enquiry findings as "outrageous" and "one-sided." Peres said the UN enquiry panel overstepped its authority, noting that it was supposed to probe damage to UN...

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres (help·info) GCMG (Hebrew: שמעון פרס‎, born Szymon Perski on 2 August 1923) is the ninth and current President of the State of Israel. Peres served twice as Prime Minister of Israel and once as Interim Prime Minister, and has been a member of 12 cabinets in a political career spanning over 66 years. Peres was elected to the Knesset in November 1959 and, except for a three-month-long hiatus in early 2006, served continuously until 2007, when he became President.

Born in Wiszniewo, in Poland (now Belarus) in 1923, Peres moved with his family to Mandate Palestine in 1934. He held several diplomatic and military positions during and directly after the War for Independence in Israel. His first high level government position was as Deputy Director-General of Defense in 1952, and Director-General in 1953 through 1959. During his career, he has represented five political parties in the Knesset: Mapai, Rafi, the Alignment, Labour and Kadima, and has led Alignment and Labour. Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the peace talks which he participated in as Israeli Foreign Minister, producing the Oslo Accords. Peres was nominated in early 2007 by Kadima to run in that year's presidential election, being elected by the Knesset for the presidency on 13 June 2007 and sworn into office on 15 July 2007 for a seven-year term.

Shimon Peres was born on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniewo, Poland (now Višnieva, Belarus), to Yitzhak (1896-1962) and Sara (b. 1905 née Meltzer) Perski. The family spoke Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian at home, and Peres learned Polish at school. He now speaks English and French in addition to Hebrew. His father was a lumber merchant, later branching out into other commodities whilst his mother was a librarian. Peres has a younger brother, Gershon.

In 1932, Peres' father immigrated to Palestine and settled in Tel Aviv. The family followed him in 1934. He attended Balfour Elementary School and High School, and Geula Gymnasium (High School for Commerce) in Tel Aviv. At 15, he transferred to Ben Shemen agricultural school and lived on Kibbutz Geva for several years. Peres was one of the founders of Kibbutz Alumot. In 1941 he was elected Secretary of Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, a Labor Zionist youth movement, and in 1944 returned to Alumot, where he worked as a dairy farmer, shepherd and kibbutz secretary.

In 1945, Shimon Peres married Sonya (née Gelman), who has preferred to remain outside the public eye throughout his political career. They have three children: a daughter, Zvia Valdan, a linguist and professor at Beit Berl Teachers Training College; and two sons, Yoni (born 1952), director of Village Veterinary Center, a veterinary hospital on the campus of Kfar Hayarok Agricultural School near Tel Aviv, and Hemi, chairman of Pitango Venture Capital, one of Israel’s largest venture capital funds. Peres has 8 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Sonya Peres was unable to attend Shimon's inauguration ceremony due to ill health. Peres is a first cousin of actress Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perski).

In 1947, Peres joined the Haganah, the predecessor of the Israel Defense Forces. David Ben-Gurion made him responsible for personnel and arms purchases. In 1952, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defense, and in 1953, at the age of 29, became the youngest ever Director General of the Ministry of Defense. He was involved in arms purchases and establishing strategic alliances that were important for the State of Israel. Owing to Peres' mediation, Israel acquired the advanced Dassault Mirage III French jet fighter, established the Dimona nuclear reactor and entered into a tri-national agreement with France and the United Kingdom during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Peres was first elected to the Knesset in the 1959 elections, as a member of the Mapai party. He was given the role of Deputy Defense Minister, which he fulfilled until 1965 when he was implicated in the Lavon affair with Moshe Dayan. Peres and Dayan left Mapai with David Ben-Gurion to form a new party, Rafi which reconciled with Mapai and joined the Alignment (a left-wing alliance) in 1968.

In 1969, Peres was appointed Minister of Immigrant Absorption and in 1970 became Minister of Transportation and Communications. In 1974, after a period as Information Minister, he was appointed Minister of Defense in the Yitzhak Rabin government, having been Rabin's chief rival for the post of Prime Minister after Golda Meir resigned in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. During this time, Peres continued to challenge Rabin for the chairmanship of the party, but in 1977, he again lost to Rabin in the party elections.

Peres succeeded Rabin as party leader prior to the 1977 elections when Rabin stepped down in the wake of a foreign currency scandal involving his wife. As Rabin could not legally resign from the transition government, he officially remained Prime Minister, while Peres became the unofficial acting Prime Minister. Peres led the Alignment to its first ever electoral defeat, when Likud under Menachem Begin won sufficient seats to form a coalition that excluded the left. After only a month on top, Peres assumed the role of opposition leader.

After turning back a comeback bid by Rabin in 1980 Peres led his party to another, narrower, loss in the 1981 elections.

In 1984, the Alignment won more seats than any other party but failed to muster the majority of 61 mandates needed to form a left-wing coalition. Therefore, the Alignment and Likud agreed on an unusual "rotation" arrangement in which Peres would serve as Prime Minister and the Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir would be Foreign Minister .

A highlight of this time in office was a trip to Morocco to confer with King Hassan II.

After two years, Peres and Shamir traded places. In 1986 he became foreign minister. In 1988, the Alignment led by Peres suffered another narrow defeat. He agreed to renew the coalition with the Likud, this time conceding the premiership to Shamir for the entire term. In the national unity government of 1988-1990, Peres served as Vice Premier and Minister of Finance. He and the Alignment finally left the government in 1990, after "the dirty trick" - A failed bid to form a narrow government based on a coalition of the Alignment, small leftist factions and ultra-orthodox parties.

From 1990, Peres led the opposition in the Knesset, until, in early 1992, he was defeated in the first primary elections of the new Israeli Labor Party (which had been formed by the consolidation of the Alignment into a single unitary party) by Yitzhak Rabin, whom he had replaced fifteen years earlier.

Peres remained active in politics, however, serving as Rabin's foreign minister from 1992 and without Rabin's knowledge, began illegal secret negotiations with Yasser Arafat's PLO organization. When Rabin found out, he let them continue. The negotiations led to the Oslo Accords, which would win Peres, Rabin and Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize.

After Rabin's assassination in 1995, Peres again became Prime Minister. During his term, Peres promoted the use of the Internet in Israel and created the first website of an Israeli prime minister. However, he was narrowly defeated by Benjamin Netanyahu in the first direct elections for Prime Minister in 1996.

In 1997 he did not seek re-election as Labor Party leader and was replaced by Ehud Barak. Barak rebuffed Peres's attempt to secure the position of party president and upon forming a government in 1999 appointed Peres to the minor post of Minister for Regional Development. Peres played little role in the Barak government.

In 2000 Peres ran for a seven-year term as Israel's President, a ceremonial head of state position, which usually authorizes the selection of Prime Minister. Had he won, as was expected, he would have been the first ex-Prime Minister to be elected President. He lost however, to Likud candidate Moshe Katsav.

Following Ehud Barak's defeat by Ariel Sharon in the 2001 direct election for Prime Minister, Peres made yet another comeback. He led Labor into a national unity government with Sharon's Likud and secured the post of Foreign Minister. The formal leadership of the party passed to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and in 2002 to Haifa mayor, Amram Mitzna. Peres was much criticized on the left for clinging to his position as Foreign Minister in a government that was not seen as advancing the peace process, despite his own dovish stance. He left office only when Labor resigned in advance of the 2003 elections. After the party under the leadership of Mitzna suffered a crushing defeat, Peres again emerged as interim leader. He led the party into coalition with Sharon once more at the end of 2004 when the latter's support of "disengagement" from Gaza presented a diplomatic program Labor could support.

Peres won the chairmanship of the Labor Party in 2005, in advance of the 2006 elections. As party leader, Peres favored pushing off the elections for as long as possible. He claimed that an early election would jeopardize both the September 2005 Gaza withdrawal plan and the standing of the party in a national unity government with Sharon. However, the majority pushed for an earlier date, as younger members of the party, among them Ophir Pines-Paz and Isaac Herzog, overtook established leaders like Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Haim Ramon, in the party ballot to divide up government portfolios. It turned out that elections could not be held in June, as planned, when a scandal erupted over possible fraud in registering party members. The investigation of this scandal delayed elections until 9 November 2005.

Irrespective of before or after the delay, Peres continually led in the polls, defying predictions that rivals would overtake him. His bitter exchanges with opponents began when former Prime Minister Barak began backing the holding of primaries early that year, as Amir Peretz and Haim Ramon, two staunch anti-Barak Knesset members vowed to support Peres at any cost to defeat Barak. In a bizarre change of events, Peretz soon declared his own candidacy, a move viewed by Peres as the greatest betrayal.

Though Peres continued to trade nasty barbs with Barak in the newspapers, his feud with Peretz soon superseded that, especially when Barak pulled out of the race in early October. One of Peretz's main charges against Peres was that he neglected socio-economic affairs as a member of the Sharon government, and did not fulfill his statement that Labor had joined the coalition with only the intent of seeing through the Gaza Withdrawal. Peres lost the leadership election with 40% to Peretz's 42.4%.

On 30 November 2005 Peres announced that he was leaving the Labor Party to support Ariel Sharon and his new Kadima party. In the immediate aftermath of Sharon's debilitating stroke there was speculation that Peres might take over as leader of the party but most senior Kadima leaders, however, were former members of Likud and indicated their support for Ehud Olmert as Sharon's successor.

Labor reportedly tried to woo Peres back to the fold. Peres announced, however, that he supported Olmert and would remain with Kadima. Media reports suggested that Ehud Olmert offered Peres the second slot on the Kadima list, but inferior cabinet positions to the ones that were reportedly offered to Tzipi Livni. Peres had previously announced his intention not to run in the March elections. Following Kadima's win in the election, Peres was given the role of Vice Prime Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee and Regional Economy.

On 13 June 2007, Peres was elected President of the State of Israel by the Knesset. 58 of 120 members of the Knesset voted for him in the first round (whereas 38 voted for Reuven Rivlin, and 21 for Colette Avital). His opponents then backed Peres in the second round and 86 members of the Knesset voted in his favor, while 23 objected. He resigned from his role as a Member of the Knesset the same day, having been a member since November 1959 (except for a three month period in early 2006), the longest serving in Israeli political history. Peres was sworn in as President on 15 July, 2007.

On November 13, 2007, Peres became the first Israeli president to speak before the legislature of a Muslim country when he addressed the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

In early 2008, plans were announced by Peres for joint economic effort in four locations in the West Bank, in a plan known as the Valley of Peace initiative. This effort was to include joint economic and industrial projects, and a jointly-built university, with investment from several countries, including Turkey and Japan.

Prime Minister Olmert presented his resignation to Peres in late 2008. On September 23, 2008, Peres asked Tzipi Livni to form a new government.

In January 2009 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was involved in a heated debate featuring the Arab league secretary general, Amr Moussa, the U.N Secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, And Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

During this debate, Erdoğan accused Israel of " Killing people " (a reference to the 2008 Hamas-Israel conflict)Shimon Peres replied agressively, reminding whoever was present of the lack of news coverage of the 1 million people in range of the Qassam rockets that had to be evacuated during the night, and posed a question to the audience "What would your country do?" he also asked Mr Erdoğan if he knew "any other country with a 60 year history that has been involved in 7 wars, and two intifadas?" The debate caused a heated controversy when Recep Erdoğan stormed off stage claiming that "I wont come back to Davos, you seem reluctant to let me speak" Erdoğan was received in Turkey as a hero of the muslim world, Peres claimed that he then had a conversation over the phone with Mr Erdoğan and that issues were settled in a friendly manner.

On February 18, 2009, Peres began consultations with delegations from Kadima and Likud to discuss the creation of a coalition after the Israeli legislative election, 2009. On February 20, Peres chose Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new Israeli government. In choosing Netanyahu, with Kadima having won 28 seats to 27 for Likud, Peres broke with the presidential tradition of asking the leader of the party with the most legislators to form a government.

On February 24, 2009, after presiding over the swearing-in ceremony of Knesset members in Jerusalem, Peres opened Israel's Eighteenth Knesset.

Peres was at one time considered something of a hawk. He was a protégé of Ben-Gurion and Dayan and an early supporter of the West Bank settlers during the 1970s. However, after becoming the leader of his party his stance evolved. More recently he has been seen as a dove, and a strong supporter of the notion of peace through economic cooperation. While still opposed, like all mainstream Israeli leaders in the 1970s and early 1980s, to talks with the PLO, he distanced himself from settlers and spoke of the need for "territorial compromise" over the West Bank and Gaza. For a time he hoped that King Hussein of Jordan could be Israel's Arab negotiating partner rather than Yasser Arafat. Peres met secretly with Hussein in London in 1987 and reached a framework agreement with him, but this was rejected by Israel's then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Shortly afterward the first intifada erupted, and whatever plausibility King Hussein had as a potential Israeli partner in resolving the fate of the West Bank evaporated. Subsequently, Peres gradually moved closer to support for talks with the PLO, although he avoided making an outright commitment to this policy until 1993.

Peres was perhaps more closely associated with the Oslo Accords than any other Israeli politician (Rabin included) with the possible exception of his own protégé, Yossi Beilin. He has remained an adamant supporter of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority since their inception despite the First Intifada and the Al-Aqsa Intifada. However, Peres supported Ariel Sharon's military policy of operating the Israeli Defence Forces to thwart suicide bombings.

Often, Peres acts as the informal "spokesman" of Israel (even when he is in the opposition) since he earned high prestige and respect among the international public opinion and diplomatic circles. Peres advocates Israel's security policy (military counter terror operations and the Israeli West Bank barrier) against international criticism and de-legitimation efforts from pro-Palestinian circles.

On the issue of the nuclear program of Iran and the existential threat this poses for Israel, Peres stated, "I am not in favor of a military attack on Iran, but we must quickly and decisively establish a strong, aggressive coalition of nations that will impose painful economic sanctions on Iran." He added, "Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear weapons should keep the entire world from sleeping soundly." In the same speech, Peres compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his call to "wipe Israel off the map" to the genocidal threats to European Jewry made by Adolf Hitler in the years prior to the Holocaust. In an interview with Army Radio on 8 May 2006 he remarked that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map".

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Israel

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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 was also used to describe the Sinai Peninsula, which 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.

In the case of the Gaza strip, which was occupied by Egypt from 1948-1967 and by Israel since 1967, Israel removed all of its residents and forces in 2005 as part of its unilateral disengagement plan. Israel still controls Gaza's airspace and sea access. Israel 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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Prime Minister of Israel

Coat of arms of Israel.svg

The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and is the most powerful political officer in Israel (the title of President of Israel, despite being head of state, is an honorary position). He or she wields executive power in the country, and has an official residence in Jerusalem. The current Prime Minister is Ehud Olmert of Kadima, the twelfth person to hold the position (excluding caretakers).

Following an election, the President nominates a Prime Minister after asking party leaders whom they support for the position, though between 1996 and 2001 the Prime Minister was elected in a separate election to the rest of the Knesset. In Hebrew the position is called Rosh HaMemshala (Hebrew: ראש הממשלה‎, literally "Head of Government"), a term also applied to foreign Prime Ministers. Occasionally, the title of "Premier" is used when referring to the Prime Minister.

The office of Prime Minister came into existence on 14 May 1948, the date of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, when the provisional government was created. David Ben-Gurion, leader of Mapai and head of the Jewish Agency became Israel's first Prime Minister. The position became permanent on 8 March 1949, when the first government was formed.

Ben-Gurion retained his role until the late 1953, when he resigned in order to settle in the Kibbutz of Sde Boker. He was replaced by Moshe Sharret. However, Ben-Gurion returned in little under two years to reclaim his position.

He resigned for a second time in 1963, annoyed at a lack of support from colleagues, and broke away from Mapai to form Rafi. Levi Eshkol took over as head of Mapai and Prime Minister. He became the first Prime Minister to head the country under the banner of two parties when Mapai formed the Alignment with Ahdut HaAvoda in 1965. In 1968 he also became the only party leader to date to command an absolute majority in the Knesset, after Mapam and Rafi merged into the Alignment, giving it 63 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

On 26 February 1969, Eshkol became the first Prime Minister to die in office, and was temporarily replaced by Yigal Allon. However, Allon's stint as Interim PM lasted less than a month, as the party persuaded Golda Meir to return to political life and become Prime Minister in March 1969. Meir was Israel's first, and so far only female Prime Minister, and only the third female leader in the world (after Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Indira Gandhi).

Meir resigned from the post in 1974 after the Agranat Commission published its findings on the Yom Kippur War, even though it had absolved her of any blame. Yitzhak Rabin took over, though he also resigned towards the end of the eighth Knesset's term after a series of scandals including the suicide of Housing Minister Avraham Ofer after a police investigation began into allegations he used party funds illegally, Asher Yadlin (the governor-designate of the Bank of Israel) being found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to five years in prison, and Rabin's wife, Leah, being found to have an overseas bank account, illegal in Israel at the time.

Menachem Begin became the first right-wing Prime Minister when his Likud won the 1977 elections, and retained the post in the 1981 elections. He resigned in 1983 for health reasons, passing the reins of power to Yitzhak Shamir.

After the 1984 elections had proved inconclusive with neither the Alignment or Likud able to form a government, a national unity government was formed with a rotating Prime Ministership - Peres took the first two years, and was replaced by Shamir midway through the Knesset term.

Although the 1988 elections produced another national unity government, Shamir was able to take the role alone. Peres made an abortive bid to form a left-wing government in 1990, but failed, leaving Shamir to rule until 1992.

Rabin became the Prime Minister for the second time when he led Labour to victory in the 1992 elections. After his assassination on 4 November 1995, Peres took over as Prime Minister.

During the thirteenth Knesset, (1992–1996,) it was decided to have separate elections for Prime Minister in a style similar to American Presidential elections. This was an attempt to deal with the increasingly fragmented nature of the Knesset, which had 13 parties with six seats or less as a result of the 1988 elections (though ironically the 1992 elections had produced a Knesset with only 10 parties, which alongside the 1973 and 1981 elections was a record low; this was largely as a result of a few parties merging). The aim was to give more power to the head of the government by freeing the position of dependency upon the support of minor parties in the Knesset, which had previously been used to bring down governments over relatively trivial matters.

The first Prime Ministerial election took place in 1996 alongside simultaneous Knesset elections. The result was a surprise win for Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud, after early results suggested Peres would win, prompting the phrase "went to sleep with Peres, woke up with Netanyahu." However, the Knesset elections produced a win for Labour, meaning that despite his theoretical position of power, Netanyahu had to rely on the support of religious parties to form a viable government.

Ultimately Netanyahu failed to hold the government together, and early elections for both Prime Minister and the Knesset were called in 1999. Although five candidates announced their intention to run, the three representing minor parties (Benny Begin of Herut – The National Movement, Azmi Bishara of Balad and Yitzhak Mordechai of the Centre Party) dropped out before election day, and Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu in the election. However, the new system had failed again, as although Barak's One Israel party (an alliance of Labour, Gesher and Meimad) won the Knesset election, they garnered only 26 seats, the lowest ever by a winning party, meaning that a coalition with six smaller parties was once again necessary.

In early 2001, Barak resigned following the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the government was not brought down, and only elections for Prime Minister were necessary. In the election itself, Ariel Sharon comfortably beat Barak, taking 62.4% of the vote. However, because Likud only had 21 seats in the Knesset, Sharon had to form a national unity government. Following Sharon's victory, it was decided to scrap separate elections for Prime Minister and return to the previous system.

The 2003 elections were carried out in the same manner as prior to 1996. Likud won 38 seats, the highest by a party for over a decade, and as party leader Sharon was duly appointed PM. However, towards the end of his term and largely as a result of the deep divisions within Likud over Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, Sharon broke away from his party to form Kadima, managing to maintain his position as Prime Minister and also becoming the first Prime Minister not to be a member of either Labour or Likud (or their predecessors). However, he suffered a stroke in January 2006, in the midst of election season, leading to Ehud Olmert become Acting Prime Minister in the weeks leading to the elections. He was voted by the cabinet to be Interim Prime Minister, days after the 2006 elections, after Sharon reached 100 days of incapacitation, that required an appointment of an Interim Prime Minister (the pre-election Government alway continues to govern until a new one is sworn in) becoming Israel's third Interim Prime Minister,just days before forming his own new Government, in the aftermath of the elections, to become the official Prime Minister of Israel.

If the Prime Minister dies in office, the Cabinet chooses an Interim Prime Minister, to run the government until a new government is placed in power. Yigal Allon served as Interim Prime Minister following Levi Eshkol's death, as did Shimon Peres following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

According to Israeli law, if a Prime Minister is temporarily incapacitated rather than dies (as was the case following Ariel Sharon's stroke in early 2006), power is transferred to the Acting Prime Minister, until the PM recovers (Ehud Olmert took over from Sharon), for up to 100 days. If the Prime Minister is declared permanently incapacitated, or that period expires, the President of Israel oversees the process of assembling a new governing coalition, and in the meantime the Acting Prime MInister or other incumbent minister is appointed by the Cabinet to serve as Interim Prime Minister.

In the case of Sharon, elections were already due to occur within 100 days of the beginning of his coma thus the post-election coalition building process pre-empted the emergency provisions for the selection of a new Prime Minister. Nevertheless, Olmert was appointed Interim Prime Minister on 16 April 2006, after the elections, just days before he had formed a government on 4 May 2006, to become the official Prime Minister.

Aside from the position of Acting Prime Minister, there are also Vice Prime Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers.

A total of twelve people have served as Prime Minister of Israel, four of whom have served on two non-consecutive occasions. Additionally, one person, Yigal Allon has served solely as an Interim Prime Minister. The other two who have served as Interim Prime Minister have gone on to become the Prime Minister.

1 In 1965 Mapai merged with Ahdut HaAvoda to form the Labour Alignment, later renamed Alignment.

2 Eshkol died while in office. Yigal Allon briefly served as acting prime minister until he was replaced by Meir.

3 Rabin resigned and called for early elections in December 1976. After he was re-elected as the Alignment's leader, he resigned as candidate for the upcoming elections on 7 April 1977, but continued to serve as prime minister until Begin's first government was formed.

4 After the 1984 elections, Likud and the Alignment reached a coalition agreement by which the role of prime minister would be rotated mid-term between them. Shimon Peres of the Alignment served as prime minister for the first two years, and then the role was passed to Yitzhak Shamir. After the 1988 election Likud was able to govern without the Alignment, and Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister again.

5 Rabin was assassinated while in office. Shimon Peres served as acting PM until 22 November 1995.

6 On 21 November 2005, PM Sharon, along with several other ministers and MKs, split from Likud over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza Strip and negotiations over the final status of the West Bank. Sharon formed a new party, Kadima, which would go on to compete in the following elections of March 2006. Sharon continued as Prime Minister.

7 As the result of Ariel Sharon suffering a severe stroke on 4 January 2006, and being put under general anaesthetic, Ehud Olmert served as the Acting Prime Minister (Hebrew: ממלא מקום ראש הממשלה בפועל‎) from 4 January to 14 April, according to Basic Law: The Government: "Should the Prime Minister be temporarily unable to discharge his duties, his place will be filled by the Acting Prime Minister. After the passage of 100 days upon which the Prime Minister does not resume his duties, the Prime Minister will be deemed permanently unable to exercise his office." Basic Law: the Governmet 2001, section 16b In Sharon's case, this occurred on 14 April 2006, upon which Olmert became Interim Prime Minister.

8 Olmert officially resigned on 21 September 2008. With this his cabinet becomes an interim government, and he is the "interim" prime minister until the establishment of a new governing coalition (he is officially the prime minister, however, the government under him is an interim government, in this case).

As of September 2008, five former Prime Ministers were alive, the oldest being Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir also has the longest life span of any PM. The most recent to die was Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated on 4 November 1995. Ariel Sharon has been in a persistent vegetative state since his stroke on 4 January 2006.

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Deputy leaders of Israel

Coat of arms of Israel.svg

Deputy leaders in Israel fall into three categories: Acting Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Vice Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister and Vice Prime Minister are honorary rather than official executive positions, but entitle the office-holder to a place in the cabinet.

Acting Prime Ministers take the place of the Prime Minister if he or she is temporarily incapacitated, while the incumbent is still in office.

If the Prime Minister is removed by impeachment, dies, or becomes permanently incapacitated, the cabinet appoints an Interim Prime Minister to serve until a new government is formed.

The designated Acting Prime Minister (Hebrew: ממלא מקום ראש הממשלה‎‎, Memaleh Makom Rosh HaMemshala lit. "Prime Minister's Place Holder", or "Prime Minister's stand-in") takes the role of Prime Minister as Acting Prime Minister, for up to 100 consecutive days, if the incumbent is temporarily incapacitated. Whilst in other countries the term "Acting Prime Minister" only refers to an individual actually performing the role, in Israel the term is also in use when a designated minister is allocated, even if they never actually perform the role. The incumbent minister must be also a knesset member to be eligible for this role.

According to the Basic law: the Government, if such a position was not held by any of the incumbent ministers, in the event of the Prime Minister being unable to fulfill their duties temporarily, the cabinet would vote to appoint one of their own members, who is a Knesset member, as Acting Prime Minister for up to 100 consecutive days.

There can be only one designated minister appointed to such position. However, the holder of this ministry position can hold other ministerial position, as the current designated Acting Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, is also Minister of Foreign Affairs, and would take power if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was unable to fulfill his duties temporarily, for up to 100 consecutive days (until the 1992 basic law: The Government, was pending the return of the incumbent to office, not in time). Confusingly, the term is sometimes referred to as Vice Prime Minister, , though a separate and different Vice Prime Minister role already exists. If the Prime Minister is abroad, the designated minister summons the government to cabinet meetings; if there is no such designated minister, the government will vote for one.

If the Prime Minister wants to replace the designated Acting Prime Minister (usually given to one of the Ministers designated during the forming of the government according to coalition agreements and political needs at the time), he then needs the approval vote of the government and the Knesset. However, the Prime Minister may fire the designated Acting Prime Minister, as he is authorized to fire any minister in his Cabinet.

An Acting Prime Minister will be standing-in for the incumbent (not assume office), acting in the Prime Minister's office, temporarily, and if a designated minister was allocated in advance, automatically, all while the incumbent is in office. However, any Acting Prime Minister will not assume office, automatically (as Interim Prime Minister), after 100 consecutive days, when the Prime Minister, legally, is deemed to be permanently incapacitated, since the "100 consecutive days" was set by law as a limit, not a delegated authority, inasmuch limit for the incumbent to be temporarily incapacitated in office and a limit for the Acting Prime Minister to act in the Incumbent's office.

The aftermath of any event, where the incumbent becomes permanently incapacitated (either declared as such or the "100 consecutive days" limit expired or else), as well as in the event of the incumbent's death or the incumbent was convicted of an offence, are addressed by the law separately. In these cases, the Government that is "deemed to have resigned" to become an Interim Government, and with the absence of a Prime Minister in office, requires a cabinet vote on one of its members (either the Acting Prime Minister or else) who must be a knesset member and (from the 2001 law) a member of the Prime Minister's Party as well, to assume office as an Interim Prime Minister, until a new government is placed in power (the 1968 law did not impose time limit on a "temporarily incapacitation" period of the Incumbent Prime Minister, but rather pending the return of the incumbent to resume his duties, and separately addressed only the event of death of the incumbent, while failing to address Permanent incapacitation or criminal conviction of the Incumbent Prime Minister).

Practically, the use of this position started only 1984 during the 11th Knesset, with the first person to hold the position, Yitzhak Shamir, taking office on 13 September 1984. A Coalition deal between the Labour Alignment and Likud stipulated that Shimon Peres would be Prime Minister for the first two years of the Knesset term (out of four years), with Yitzhak Shamir serving as the designated Acting Prime Minister, and then swap places with Shamir for the next two. The major political parties, right-wing Likud party, then headed by Yitzhak Shamir, and Labour, then headed by Shimon Peres, did not gain enough seats in parliament, during the general election, to form a governing majority coalition, which enabled this coalition agreement to take place. The deal was continued into the 12th Knesset, but collapsed in 1990. The role of the designated Acting Prime Minister was limited and unattractive for any chairman of major party aspiring to get the top job.

The position was resurrected in 2003, with Ariel Sharon appointing Ehud Olmert to the post. As designated Acting Prime Minister, Olmert was called to take over the running of the government, following Sharon's stroke in the midst of elections season of early 2006, and continued his role as Acting Prime Minister, after the election were held, and after Sharon & Olmert's Party were designated to form the new government . Days after the election, Sharon reached the 100 consecutive days of Incapacitation (making him legally permanently incapacitated), and then the pre-elections Interim Government voted on Olmert to be the Interim Prime Minister, and he fully assumed office as an Interim Prime Minister, just days before forming his own new government, in the aftermath of the election, on 4 May 2006, to become the official Prime Minister. Tzipi Livni then was appointed to the post, in Olmert's Government.

The Interim Prime Minister (Hebrew: ראש הממשלה בפועל‎‎, Rosh HaMemshala Ba-foal lit. "Prime Minister de facto") is appointed by the Government if the incumbent is dead or permanently incapacitated, or his tenure was ended due to a criminal conviction.

The Israeli law distinguishes the terms Acting Prime Minister (מלא מקום ראש הממשלה), filling in for the incumbent Prime Minister, temporarily, and acting in the incumbent's office, while the incumbent is in office, and an Interim Prime Minister in office. Only if the incumbent Prime Minister becomes temporarily incapacitated, the acting Prime Minister will act in the incumbent's office and will be standing-in for him for up to 100 consecutive days, while the incumbent is in office. Legally, the "100 consecutive days" limit, in the language of the law, only stipulates that the incumbent then is deemed to be permanently incapacitated and that the limited time for an Acting Prime Minister to act in the incumbent's office is over.

The 1968 law (prior to the 1992 and 2001 basic laws of government) did not impose time limit on a "temporarily incapacitation" period of the Incumbent Prime Minister, but rather pending the return of the incumbent to resume his duties, and separately addressed only the event of death of the incumbent for appointing an interim Prime Minister, while failing to address Permanent incapacitation or criminal conviction of the incumbent Prime Minister.

Separately, the law of 2001 stipulates that in any event where the Incumbent Prime Minister becomes permanently incapacitated (either declared as such or "100 consecutive days" limit expired or else), or if the incumbent died or ceased being Prime Minister due to a criminal conviction, the Government that is "deemed to have resigned" to becomes an Interim Government, continues to govern until a new Government is placed in power, and in the absence of a Prime Minister in office, they then must vote on one of their incumbent Ministers (either the Acting Prime Minister or else) to fully assume office as the Interim Prime Minister, if he or she meet the requirements.

While the Acting Prime Minister must be a Knesset member to meet the requirements, the Interim Prime Minister must be a member of the Prime Minister's party as well. Until the 2001 basic law: the government, both the Acting and Interim Prime Ministers were only required to be a knesset member in addition to being a member of the Government. However, before and after the 2001 law, an Interim Prime Minister would not be appointed unless the Government would be voting on one of their members (either the Acting Prime Minister or else) to be the Interim Prime Minister until a new government is placed in power.

In 2006, Ehud Olmert, after standing-in for Prime Minister Sharon for 100 consecutive days, as acting Prime Minister, did not automatically assume office as an Interim Prime Minister. The Government voted to appoint him, and in addition, he was also a member of Prime Minister's Party, which enabled them to appoint him to the role .

An Interim Prime Minister does not have to form a majority coalition in the Knesset, in order to get their approval vote (as a Prime Minister is required to do), and can assume office immediately, until a new government is placed in power.

Shimon Peres was the Foreign Minister when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and was voted unanimously to assume office as an Interim Prime Minister until a new Government would be placed in power (that he later formed by himself). Yigal Alon was also voted to be the Interim Prime Minister after Prime Minister Levi Eshkol suddenly died and served until Golda Meir formed her Government.

Both the Interim and Acting Prime Ministers' authorities are identical to those of a Prime Minister, with the exception of not having the authority to dissolve the Knesset.

There are other cases (all other), not pending the situation of the incumbent Prime Minister's ability to continue to serve, where the Government becomes an Interim Government, while the Incumbent Prime Minister is in office. In these cases, the Incumbent Prime Minister is commonly referred as an "Interim" Prime Minister, as a reference to change of the legal status only of the Government under him. However, legally he is The Prime Minister, and only the government under him is legally an Interim Government (see Interim Government below).

An interim government (Hebrew: ממשלת מעבר‎, Memshelet Ma'avar lit. "Transitional Government") is the same government, having been changed in their legal status, after the death, resignation, permanent incapacitation, or criminal conviction of the Prime Minister, as well as after the Prime Minister's request to dissolve the Knesset was published through the President's decree, or after it was defeated by a motion of no confidence (these actions are regarded by the law as "the Government shall be deemed to have resigned"), or after election and before the forming of a new government (legally, "Newly elected Knesset" period), and in all the cases above, it continues to govern as an Interim Government, until a new government is placed in power, accordingly to the principle of "Government Continuity", in order to prevent a government void.

If the incumbent Prime Minister can no longer serve (died, permanent incapacitation or criminal conviction), when the government is "deemed to have resigned" to become an Interim Government, they appoint a different person from their own government to the role of an Interim Prime Minister (either the Acting Prime Minister or else) until a new government is placed in power. This is a legal reference both to the change of a Prime Minister in office and in same Government, a change in their legal status.

In all other cases, when the government becomes an Interim Government, and the Incumbent Prime Minister is able to continue to serve also until a new government is placed in power, the Prime Minister is commonly referred also as an "Interim" Prime Minister, as a reference only to the change of the legal status of the same Government under him. However, legally, he is The Prime Minister, and only the Government under him is legally an Interim Government.

An Incumbent Prime Minister running an Interim Government occurs either if the Government is "deemed to have resigned" to become an Interim Government, but the incumbent is able to continue to serve also until a new government is placed in power; if the incumbent resigned, Government was defeated in motion of no confidence, the Prime Minister's request to dissolve the Knesset was published through the President's decree; Or else, during the period of time after elections were held and before the forming of a new government, as defined by the law as the period of time of a "Newly elected Knesset", and if they have not become one already, the elections will turn them into an Interim Governmet as well, as in the cases of the end of a full knesset term (or after extension term), or after the knesset has dissolved itself (but not until election day).

A resignation of the Government or elections, consequentially, turning the Cabinet into an Interim Government (i.e. the Interim Cabinet), legally requires to start the process of forming a new government, through the only single elected branch in the general elections, the Knesset (Israeli parliament), to have an approval "Vote of confidence" of the majority on an official Prime Minister and the government he formed there. If elections were held, the process goes through the newly Knesset designated, but if it occurred during the four years term of the existing Knesset, the process will go back to the exsiting elected branch and will take place there, and only should that fail, as a result, the exsiting elected branch, the Knesset, will be "deemed" to have dissolved itself, and early elections will be held. In all cases above, the Interim Government will continue to govern until one of those processes is successful.

An official Prime Minister is or was always voted, along with the Government he formed in the parliament, in an approval Vote of Confidence by the majority of this elected branch, the Knesset, with the expectation to serve, along with his government, until the end of the Knesset full term, either if he began serving after a newly elected Knesset or in the midst of the Knesset term, unless his government later became an "Interim Government", that is legally "deemed" to have lost that vote, and as apposed to an Interim Prime Minister, appointed by such a government, and without the approval vote of the Knesset, to serve along only until a new government will be placed in power.

If the elected branch, the Knesset, decides on its own to dissolve itself, or is legally "deemed" to have dissolved itself separately, necessarily, leading to early elections, the cabinet is regarded not to have changed in their legal status. However, once elections were held, they automatically become an Interim Government.

An Acting Prime Minister, standing in for the incumbent, while he is temporarily incapacitated, does not turn the government into an Interim Government (nor does the incumbent's temporary situation). However, if the incumbent became temporarily incapacitated, while already running an Interim Government, the Acting Prime minister will be filling in for the incumbent as well.

The law does not impose any impediments on an interim government (except that in the past ministers were banned from resigning and today it has turned into a privilege, were they may resign and a successor may be appointed without the approval vote of the Knesset), but rather addresses the definition of Government continuity for the purpose of preventing a government void situation. However, a Supreme Court ruling on the matter, that stipulated that such a government that does not enjoy the approval vote of the Knesset must act in "restraint in using its authorities, in all matters that do not bear any particular urgency or necessity to act upon them", has opened the door for legal controversies at times, as to what exactly does this legal determination mean .

1 Unless the government already been an Interim Government, in case the Prime Minister resigned, Government was defeated in a Motion of no confidence, or the Prime Minister's request to dissolve the Knesset was published through the President's decree, and only after this occurred, the Prime Minister became temporarily incapacitated (as was in Ehud Olmert's case, when Sharon's request to dissolve the Knesset was published through the President's decree, and only there after, did he become temporarily Incapacited ).

2 Basic Law: the Government (2001); Section 30 on Government Continuity (addresses the continuity of the Prime Minister, after he has resigned his post and appointing an Interim Prime Minister), Section 30 also addresses the following provisions; Criminal conviction of the Prime Minister - 18; Resignation of a Prime Minister - 19; Death or permanent Incapacitation of the Prime Minister - 20, A Prime Minister who ceased being a Knesset Member (Regarded as if he has resigned his post) - 21; Government defeated in Motion of no confidence - 28; Resignation of the Government after the Prime Minister's request to dissolve the Knesset have been published through the President's decree - 29, and defines the "Outgoing Government" according to these clauses (Whereas the Supreme Court referred to it as the "Interim Government" , as it is well known). Clause 30b also refers to the Outgoing Government during the times of "Newly elected Knesset" , hence, if the government's status had not been already an Interim Government during "Newly elected Knesset", according to the clauses above, then in the event of a "Newly elected Knesset" - in conjugation with the Basic law: The Knesset, in the event of the end of the knesst's full term (or after an extension term) or after the knesset has dissolved itself earlier (but not until election day) - the Government then becomes an Interim Government as well.

The position of Deputy Prime Minister (Hebrew: סגן ראש הממשלה‎, Segan Rosh HaMemshela) is an honorary title carried by an incumbent Minister in the Israeli Government under the Basic law:the Government, that states the follows: "A minister may be a Deputy Prime Minister" (but no more than that), thus, not limiting the number of deputies a Prime Minister can appoint (as apposed to an Acting Prime Minister, that can only be one).

It was created in 1963 when Abba Eban was appointed to the post in Levi Eshkol's first government. In 1977 Menachem Begin became the first Prime Minister to have two deputies.

The title was scrapped from 1992-1996 during the term of the 13th Knesset, but was resurrected by Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996 when he appointed four Deputies. In Ehud Olmert's cabinet there are three (previously four), one from his own party, and the leaders of the two next largest parties in his coalition (Labour and Shas).

David Levy has had three spells as Deputy PM; from 1977 until 1992 and then again from 1996-1998 and 1999-2000. Each term was with a different party, Likud, Gesher and One Israel respectively.

The post of Vice Prime Minister (Hebrew: משנה ראש הממשלה‎, Mishneh Rosh HaMemshela) is also sometimes referred to as Vice Premier, is an honorary title carried by an incumbent Minister of the Israeli Government, that does not exist under any Israeli law, and has no statutory meaning, which was originally created especially for one of Israeli founding father, Shimon Peres.

After Amram Mitzna resigned as head of the Labour Party following the party's defeat in the 2003 elections, Peres was once again appointed as temporary chairman of the party, until a primary for leadership among member of party will be held.

When, in early 2005, Ariel Sharon's right-wing coalition was in trouble due to disagreements over the disengagement plan, Peres led his party into Sharon's coalition for the purpose of supporting the plan. During the coalition negotiations, Peres demanded to be appointed Acting Prime Minister, but was turned down, since the position was already occupied by Ehud Olmert. Labour then demanded that the government change the Basic Law: the Government, in order to enable two acting Prime Ministers at the same time, but received no support for such action.

A compromise was reached by Labour's Haim Ramon, in which Peres received the honorary title of Vice Prime Minister, which included provisions within the agreement, defining his jurisdiction within Sharon's government, but had no legal meaning, as the law regarded Peres and the Vice Prime Minister position as no other than just another title for an incumbent minister within the Israeli government.

Although Peres lost the position when Labour left the government in November 2005, he regained it in May 2006 following his defection to Kadima party and the party's victory in the 2006 elections. However, he resigned from the post on the day he won the election for President in June 2007.

Haim Ramon was appointed to the post in a cabinet reshuffle in July 2007.

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Source : Wikipedia