/iz"ree euhl, -ray-/, n.
1. a republic in SW Asia, on the Mediterranean: formed as a Jewish state May 1948. 5,534,672; 7984 sq. mi. (20,679 sq. km). Cap.: Jerusalem.
2. the people traditionally descended from Jacob; the Hebrew or Jewish people.
3. a name given to Jacob after he had wrestled with the angel. Gen. 32:28.
4. the northern kingdom of the Hebrews, including 10 of the 12 tribes, sometimes called by the name of the chief tribe, Ephraim. Cap.: Samaria.
5. a group considered by its members or by others as God's chosen people.
6. a male given name.
[bef. 1000; ME, OE < L Israel < Gk Israél < Heb Yisra'el lit., God perseveres]

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Introduction Israel -
Background: Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the UN partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. The territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted. On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives (from the Israeli- occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Syria, to achieve a permanent settlement; however, these efforts were derailed/postponed by the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence in September 2000. On 25 May 2000, Israel withdrew unilaterally from southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since 1982. Geography Israel
Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon
Geographic coordinates: 31 30 N, 34 45 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 20,770 sq km water: 440 sq km land: 20,330 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries: total: 1,017 km border countries: Egypt 266 km, Gaza Strip 51 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307 km
Coastline: 273 km
Maritime claims: continental shelf: to depth of exploitation territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas
Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m highest point: Har Meron 1,208 m
Natural resources: timber, potash, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clays, sand
Land use: arable land: 17.02% permanent crops: 4.17% other: 78.81% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,990 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; droughts; periodic earthquakes Environment - current issues: limited arable land and natural fresh water resources pose serious constraints; desertification; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; groundwater pollution from industrial and domestic waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli- occupied Golan Heights, 25 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2001 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source People Israel -
Population: 6,029,529 (July 2002 est.) note: includes about 182,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, fewer than 7,000 in the Gaza Strip, and about 176,000 in East Jerusalem (August 2001 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 27.1% (male 837,491; female 798,695) 15-64 years: 63% (male 1,905,677; female 1,889,525) 65 years and over: 9.9% (male 257,066; female 341,075) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.48% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 18.91 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 6.21 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/ female total population: 0.99 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 7.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.86 years female: 81.01 years (2002 est.) male: 76.82 years
Total fertility rate: 2.54 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.08% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 2,400 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 100 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Israeli(s) adjective: Israeli
Ethnic groups: Jewish 80.1% (Europe/America-born 32.1%, Israel-born 20.8%, Africa- born 14.6%, Asia-born 12.6%), non- Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab) (1996 est.)
Religions: Jewish 80.1%, Muslim 14.6% (mostly Sunni Muslim), Christian 2.1%, other 3.2% (1996 est.)
Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 95% male: 97% female: 93% (1992 est.) Government Israel -
Country name: conventional long form: State of Israel conventional short form: Israel local short form: Yisra'el local long form: Medinat Yisra'el
Government type: parliamentary democracy
Capital: Jerusalem; note - Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv Administrative divisions: 6 districts (mehozot, singular - mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv
Independence: 14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)
National holiday: Independence Day, 14 May (1948); note - Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May
Constitution: no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the Basic Laws of the parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law
Legal system: mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985, Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Moshe KATSAV (since 31 July 2000) elections: president elected by the Knesset for a five-year term; election last held 31 July 1999 (next to be held NA July 2003); prime minister elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held 6 February 2001 (next to be held NA November 2003); note - in March 1992, the Knesset approved legislation, effective in 1996, which allowed for the direct election of the prime minister, but in 2001 the Knesset voted to restore the previous method under which the legislators will choose the next prime minister after the next legislative elections in 2003 head of government: Prime Minister Ariel SHARON (since 7 March 2001) cabinet: Cabinet selected by prime minister and approved by the Knesset election results: Moshe KATSAV elected president by the 120-member Knesset with a total of 60 votes, other candidate, Shimon PERES, received 57 votes (there were three abstentions); Ariel SHARON elected prime minister; percent of vote - Ariel SHARON 62.5%, Ehud BARAK 37.4%; note - after the next legislative elections scheduled for 2003, the prime minister will be elected by the Knesset
Legislative branch: unicameral Knesset or parliament (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms) elections: last held 17 May 1999 (next to be held NA November 2003) election results: percent of vote by party - One Israel 20.2%, Likud Party 14.1%, Shas 13%, Meretz 7.6%, Yisra'el Ba'Aliya 5.1%, Shinui 5%, Center Party 5%, National Religious Party 4.2%, United Torah Judaism 3.7%, United Arab List 3.4%, National Union 3%, Hadash 2.6%, Yisra'el Beiteinu 2.6%, Balad 1.9%, One Nation 1.9%, Democratic Movement NA (party formed after election, members elected under Yisra'el Ba'Aliya list); seats by party - One Israel 24, Likud Party 19, Shas 17, MERETZ 10, Yisra'el Ba'Aliya 4, Shinui 6, Center Party 5, National Religious Party 5, United Torah Judaism 5, United Arab List 5, National Union 3, Hadash 3, Yisra'el Beiteinu 4, Democratic Movement 2 (party formed after election, members elected under Yisra'el Ba'Aliya list), Balad 2, One Nation 2
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (justices appointed for life by the president) Political parties and leaders: Balad or National Democratic Alliance [Azmi BISHARA]; Center Party [Dan MERIDOR]; Democratic Movement [Roman BRONFMAN]; Gesher [David LEVI]; Hadash [Muhammad BARAKA]; Labor Party [Binyamin BEN- ELIEZER]; Likud Party [Ariel SHARON]; Meretz [Yossi SARID]; National Religious Party [Yitzhak LEVY]; National Union [Benyamin ELON] (includes Herut, Tekuma, and Moledet); One Israel [Ra'anan COHEN]; One Nation [Amir PERETZ]; Shas [Eliyahu YISHAI]; Shinui [Tommy LAPID]; United Arab List [Abd al- Malik DAHAMSHAH]; United Torah Judaism [Meir PORUSH]; Yisra'el Ba'Aliya [Natan SHARANSKY]; Yisra'el Beiteinu [Avigdor LIEBERMAN] Political pressure groups and Israeli nationalists advocating
leaders: Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Peace Now supports territorial concessions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Yesha (settler) Council promotes settler interests and opposes territorial compromise; B'Tselem monitors human rights abuses International organization BSEC (observer), CCC, CE (observer),
participation: CERN (observer), EBRD, ECE, FAO, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, OAS (observer), OPCW (signatory), OSCE (partner), PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador David IVRY consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco FAX: [1] (202) 364-3607 telephone: [1] (202) 364-5500 chancery: 3514 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel
US: C. KURTZER embassy: 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv mailing address: PSC 98, Unit 7228, APO AE 09830 telephone: [972] (3) 519-7575 FAX: [972] (3) 517-3227 consulate(s) general: Jerusalem; note - an independent US mission, established in 1928, whose members are not accredited to a foreign government
Flag description: white with a blue hexagram (six- pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag Economy Israel
Economy - overview: Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government's external debt is owed to the US, which is its major source of economic and military aid. The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR during the period 1989- 99 coupled with the opening of new markets at the end of the Cold War, energized Israel's economy, which grew rapidly in the early 1990s. But growth began moderating in 1996 when the government imposed tighter fiscal and monetary policies and the immigration bonus petered out. Growth was a strong 6.4% in 2000. But the outbreak of Palestinian unrest in late September 2000 and the declines in the high-technology and tourist sectors led to a 0.6% drop in GDP in 2001.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $119 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: -0.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $20,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 4% industry: 37% services: 59% (1999 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 2.8%
percentage share: highest 10%: 26.9% (1992) Distribution of family income - Gini 35.5 (1992)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.1% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 2.4 million (2000 est.) Labor force - by occupation: public services 31.2%, manufacturing 20.2%, finance and business 13.1%, commerce 12.8%, construction 7.5%, personal and other services 6.4%, transport, storage, and communications 6.2%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 2.6% (1996)
Unemployment rate: 9% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $40 billion expenditures: $42.4 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: high-technology projects (including aviation, communications, computer- aided design and manufactures, medical electronics), wood and paper products, potash and phosphates, food, beverages, and tobacco, caustic soda, cement, diamond cutting Industrial production growth rate: -4.5% (2001) Electricity - production: 38.876 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.89% hydro: 0.11% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 34.897 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 1.27 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 12 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products
Exports: $26.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Exports - partners: US 37.4%, Benelux 6%, Germany 4.8%, Hong Kong 4.4%, UK 4.3%, Netherlands 2.8% (2000)
Imports: $30.6 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, consumer goods
Imports - partners: US 17.8%, Benelux 10%, UK 7.6%, Germany 7.5%, Switzerland 5.4%, Italy 4.8% (2000)
Debt - external: $42.8 billion (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: NA
Currency: new Israeli shekel (ILS)
Currency code: ILS
Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels per US dollar - 4.2757 (December 2001), 4.2057 (2001), 4.0773 (2000), 4.1397 (1999), 3.8001 (1998), 3.4494 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Israel - Telephones - main lines in use: 2.8 million (1999) Telephones - mobile cellular: 2.5 million (1999)
Telephone system: general assessment: most highly developed system in the Middle East although not the largest domestic: good system of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay; all systems are digital international: 3 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (2 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 23, FM 15, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios: 3.07 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 17 (plus 36 low-power repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 1.69 million (1997)
Internet country code: .il Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 21 (2000)
Internet users: 1.94 million (2001) Transportation Israel -
Railways: total: 647 km standard gauge: 647 km 1.435-m gauge (2001)
Highways: total: 15,965 km paved: 15,965 km (including 56 km of expressways) unpaved: 0 km (1998 est.)
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 708 km; petroleum products 290 km; natural gas 89 km
Ports and harbors: Ashdod, Ashqelon, Elat (Eilat), Hadera, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Merchant marine: total: 16 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 595,319 GRT/704,544 DWT ships by type: container 15, roll on/roll off 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 54 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 29 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 4 914 to 1,523 m: 11 under 914 m: 5 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 7 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 25 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 4 under 914 m: 20 (2001)
Heliports: 3 (2001) Military Israel -
Military branches: Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (includes ground, naval, and air components with Air Defense Forces), Pioneer Fighting Youth (Nahal), Frontier Guard, Chen (women); note - historically there have been no separate Israeli military services Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 1,542,835 females age 15-49: 1,499,830 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 1,262,973
service: females age 15-49: 1,223,939 (2002 est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 51,666
military age annually: females: 49,207 (2002 est.) Military expenditures - dollar $8.866 bilion (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 8% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Israel - Disputes - international: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement - permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab'a Farms area of Golan Heights)
Illicit drugs: increasingly concerned about cocaine and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and increasingly Jordan

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officially State of Israel

Country, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

Area: 7,886 sq mi (20,425 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 6,394,000 (includes population of Golan Heights and east Jerusalem; excludes population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip). Capital: Jerusalem. Jews constitute some four-fifths of the population, and Arabs about one-fifth. Languages: Hebrew, Arabic (both official). Religions: Judaism, Islam (mainly Sunnite), Christianity. Currency: new Israeli sheqel (NIS). Israel can be divided into four major regions: the Mediterranean coastal plain in the west; a hill region extending from the northern border into central Israel; the Great Rift Valley, containing the Jordan River, in the east; and the arid Negev, occupying nearly the entire southern half of the country. Its major drainage system is the interior basin formed by the Jordan River; Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) provides water to almost half of the country's agricultural land. Israel has a mixed economy based largely on services and manufacturing; exports include machinery and electronics, diamonds, chemicals, citrus fruits, vegetables, and textiles. Its population is nine-tenths urban and is concentrated largely in the Mediterranean coastal plain and around Jerusalem. It is a republic with one legislative house, the Knesset; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The record of human habitation in Israel (see Palestine) is at least 100,000 years old. Efforts by Jews to establish a national state there began in the late 19th century. Britain supported Zionism and in 1923 assumed political responsibility for what was then Palestine. Migration of Jews there, which increased during the period of Nazi persecution, led to deteriorating relations with Arabs. In 1947 the UN voted to partition the region into separate Jewish and Arab states. The State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, and Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq immediately declared war on it. Israel won this war (see Arab-Israeli wars) as well as the 1967 Six-Day War, in which it occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and east Jerusalem. (Subsequent claims of Jerusalem as Israel's capital have not received wide international recognition.) Another war with its Arab neighbours followed in 1973, but the Camp David Accords led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to expel the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from that country, and in late 1987 an uprising broke out among Palestinians of the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip (see intifādah). Peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab states and Palestinians began in 1992. Israel and the PLO agreed in 1993 to a five-year plan to extend self-government to the Palestinians of the occupied territories. Israel signed a full peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. Israeli soldiers and a Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, clashed repeatedly throughout the 1990s. Israeli troops abruptly withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Later that year further negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down amid violence that claimed hundreds of lives.
(as used in expressions)
State of Israel
Melvin Allen Israel
Israel Baline
Edward Israel Iskowitz
Israel Gershvin
Israel tribes of
Putnam Israel
Israel Beer Josaphat
Israel Strassberg
Zangwill Israel

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▪ 2009

21,643 sq km (8,357 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2008 est.): 7,018,000, excluding 290,000 Jews in the West Bank
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Shimon Peres
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,278 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2008 est.): West Bank 2,656,000, including 2,366,000 Arabs and 290,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,444,000
Principal administrative centres:
Ramallah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Mahmoud Abbas, assisted by Prime Minister Salam Fayad

      On Sept. 21, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Livni, Tzipi ), who became leader of the ruling Kadima party in a mid-September leadership primary that Olmert did not contest, spent much of the following month trying unsuccessfully to form a new coalition government. Livni then asked Pres. Shimon Peres to call early elections, which were set for Feb. 10, 2009.

      Olmert's resignation occurred after more than two years of intensive police investigations. His position became untenable in late May when Morris Talansky, a New York-based fund-raiser, in a pretrial deposition, accused Olmert of having accepted about $150,000 in cash payments over a 13-year period. With Olmert under suspicion of bribery, breach of trust, and violation of election-campaigning laws, Defense Minister Ehud Barak threatened to pull the Labour Party out of the coalition unless Kadima chose a new leader. This announcement triggered the process that led to Olmert's ouster.

      Six days before his resignation, Olmert leaked details of a far-reaching peace offer made to the Palestinians. In return for peace, Israel would hand over the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank, set up a temporary joint regime for Jerusalem's holy basin, and agree to the return to Israel proper of 2,000 Palestinian refugees annually over a 10-year period.

      After a Mideast summit that was hosted by the U.S. in Annapolis, Md., in November 2007, Israel and the Palestinians launched intensive peace talks on two tracks: Olmert negotiated about principles with Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas, and Livni conferred with former Palestinian prime minister Ahmad Qureia regarding the details. The aim was to conclude by the end of 2008 a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a “shelf” agreement that would be implemented as soon as conditions permitted.

      The U.S. and the international community invested a great deal of energy in the process. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made several trips to the region to facilitate negotiations; former British prime minister Tony Blair, special envoy of the international “Quartet” (the U.S., the EU, the UN, and Russia), raised more than $7 billion to boost the Palestinian economy; and U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton trained Palestinian forces to take over security in West Bank cities, starting with Nablus, Jenin, and Hebron.

       Hamas categorically rejected any peacemaking with Israel and in the first half of the year fired thousands of rockets and mortar shells at Israeli civilians in towns and villages bordering the Gaza Strip. In an attempt to pressure Hamas, Israel maintained a land and sea blockade, causing a degree of humanitarian suffering for which it was widely criticized.

      In late January Hamas militiamen blew up the border fence at the Rafah crossing point, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured into Egypt in symbolic defiance of Israel's blockade. The Egyptians, however, quickly resealed the border, and over the next few months, fighting between Israel and the militants escalated. In early March, after Hamas fired long-range Grad rockets at the city of Ashkelon, Israel conducted a five-day land incursion into Gaza, in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed. Partly out of concern that the Gaza violence might overflow into Egypt, Cairo mediated a truce that went into effect on June 19. On December 19, Hamas refused to renew the truce as long as border crossing points remained closed and five days later fired more than 70 rockets and mortar shells at civilian targets in Israel. Israel's response was harsh. On December 27, in an initial strike that lasted just 3 minutes and 40 seconds, more than 60 warplanes and helicopters destroyed dozens of Hamas government buildings and installations, killing about 150 people, most of them militiamen. By year's end, despite international calls for a cease-fire, the confrontation showed every sign of escalating, with Israeli air raids and Hamas rocketing continuing unabated, and Israeli ground troops poised to move into Gaza.

      After a breakdown of Israeli- Syrian peace talks in 2000, both sides put out feelers in 2007 to resume the process; an announcement on May 21, 2008, led to the renewal of indirect peace talks, which would be mediated by Turkey. Following four sessions of fruitful talks, the Israelis and the Syrians were on the brink of launching direct peace talks but decided to wait until the formation of new administrations in Israel and the U.S. There were two key questions: would Syria be prepared to detach itself from the Iranian axis, and would a new U.S. administration be ready to offer Syria sufficient economic and political inducement to do so?

      Israel's main strategic concern was Iran's suspected plan to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Throughout the year Israel made strong diplomatic representations in an effort to block an Iranian nuclear weapons program. During visits to Israel in January and May, U.S. Pres. George W. Bush was shown the latest Israeli intelligence data. In a festive address to the Knesset (parliament) marking Israel's 60th anniversary, Bush reaffirmed U.S. determination to prevent “the world's leading sponsor of terror” from possessing “the world's deadliest weapon.” In June the Israeli air force reportedly carried out large-scale maneuvers that simulated an aerial attack on Iranian nuclear installations, and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz sparked a minor international storm when he warned that if Iran continued its alleged weapons program, Israel would be left with no option but to attack. In late September Israel's military intelligence told the government that Iran already had one-third of the fissionable material needed to produce a bomb.

      On July 16, two years after the outbreak of the war in Lebanon between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the latter group returned the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped in the incident that had led to war. As part of the prisoner exchange mediated by Germany, Israel returned a Lebanese held since 1979 after particularly brutal terrorist murders, four Hezbollah fighters captured in the war, and the bodies of 199 Lebanese and Palestinian militants.

      The final report of the Winograd Commission's investigation of the war was published in late January, further undermining Olmert's position as prime minister. Although the report was scathingly critical of his performance, it did not recommend that he resign, nor did it find, as his detractors claimed, that he had launched the inconclusive land operation in the final 60 hours of the war to improve his sagging political fortunes. On the contrary, it stated that the decision was “almost inevitable,” and Olmert claimed that the report had lifted a “moral stigma.”

      The international credit crisis found the Israeli economy faltering, but not as badly as the economies in the U.S. or the EU. Though first-quarter growth registered at 5.6%, as the international crisis deepened, the growth rate was ratcheted down to about 3% for the year, and the Bank of Israel forecast the 2009 rate at 2.7%. Israeli banks were not heavily involved in subprime lending, and there was no need for a government rescue plan. Nevertheless, the Tel Aviv stock exchange tumbled and by mid-October had lost about one-third of its value from the beginning of the year.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2008

21,643 sq km (8,357 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2007 est.): 6,900,000, excluding 277,000 Jews in the West Bank
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
Presidents Moshe Katzav and, from July 15, Shimon Peres
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,278 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2007 est.): West Bank 2,794,000, including 2,517,000 Arabs and 277,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,499,000. Projections, however, based on an independent demographic study in 2005, estimate the 2007 Arab West Bank population at 1,486,000 and that of the Gaza Strip at 1,177,000
Principal administrative centres:
Ramallah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Mahmoud Abbas, assisted by Prime Ministers Ismail Haniya and, from June 15, Salam Fayad

      After a stormy seven-year hiatus, 2007 saw a renewal of the Israeli- Palestinian peace process. The new U.S.-led drive for accommodation was made possible by a split in Palestinian ranks between the moderate, largely secular Fatah and the radical Islamist Hamas. In its peacemaking efforts, Israel dealt solely with the moderates in the West Bank, ignoring the radicals who had seized power in Gaza. Ostracized and excluded, Hamas, backed primarily by Iran, launched increasingly intensive rocket attacks designed to disrupt the peace effort.

      The moderate-radical divide among the Palestinians mirrored a growing regional rift between Western-leaning moderates, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, and a radical Iranian-led axis that included Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and Hamas. The renewed U.S. effort to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace was part of a wider strategy to strengthen the moderate camp.

      The seminal event for Israeli-Palestinian ties in 2007 was a bitter showdown in Gaza in June between Fatah-led moderates and Hamas-led radicals. During a week that saw often brutal fighting, poorly motivated and disorganized Fatah forces collapsed in the face of a well-coordinated Hamas onslaught. For Hamas, however, the victory proved a mixed blessing. Although Hamas had won a national election in January 2006 and was in sole control in Gaza, the radicals found themselves out of government. In the wake of the fighting, Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah invoked his constitutional authority to dismiss Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and form a new Fatah-led administration under Salam Fayad, a highly respected economist. Based in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the Fayad government was immediately recognized by most of the international community, including Israel. Ironically, Fatah's defeat in Gaza made it possible for Israel to circumvent the radicals and deal directly with the moderates in control of the West Bank.

      All the key players were quick to recognize the peacemaking potential in the new situation. On June 25, just 10 days after the Hamas takeover in Gaza, moderate West Bank Palestinians and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel met at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Shaykh to launch a new Israeli-Palestinian initiative. On July 16 U.S. Pres. George W. Bush signaled his approval of the new peace moves by calling for a U.S.-sponsored regional conference in the fall.

 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made several trips to the region to help set the agenda and to ensure that key players, including the Saudis, participated. On each occasion she insisted that Israel and the Palestinians deal with core issues (notably borders, refugees, and Jerusalem) as part of a final peace deal. At the peace conference, held in Annapolis, Md., on November 27 and attended by 16 Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria, Israel and the Palestinians were only able to agree on a joint statement under heavy American pressure and by avoiding specific reference to any of the core issues. Moreover, the relatively large turnout of moderate Arab states seemed to have more to do with fear of Iran than peacemaking with Israel. Nevertheless, Israel and the Palestinians undertook to launch an intensive negotiating process aimed at reaching a final peace deal by the end of 2008.

      With Hamas in control in Gaza, however, it was not clear how far Abbas would be able to advance in peacemaking efforts with Israel. In October rumours surfaced of secret feelers between Fatah moderates and Hamas radicals over a sulha, or “reconciliation,” along the lines of a power-sharing agreement reached by the two sides in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in February. Throughout the year, however, Hamas persisted in its refusal to recognize Israel, and on September 19 Israel declared Gaza an “enemy entity” and threatened to cut off electricity and fuel supplies in retaliation for continued rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

      Relations between Israel and Syria were also strained. Along with repeated peace overtures from Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad, Damascus carried out a significant arms buildup, procuring sophisticated AT-14 Kornet antitank and Pantsir-S1 antiaircraft missiles from Russia. After large-scale Israeli and Syrian ground exercises in May in the Golan Heights, there was talk on both sides of war in the summer. Tensions came to a head when, on September 6, Israeli planes crossed into Syria and bombed a building that Western media claimed contained a nuclear facility supplied by North Korea. Israel at first was careful not to acknowledge the strike, let alone the nature of the target, and the Syrians did not retaliate.

      The Syrian arms purchases were reportedly bankrolled by Iran, which continued to strengthen its regional allies and proxies, resupplying the Lebanese Hezbollah with rockets similar to those lost in the previous summer's war with Israel and training Hamas militia cadres. According to Israeli intelligence, the Iranian aim was to surround Israel with a missile cordon from Tehran to Gaza, primarily to deter any Israeli preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program.

      Growing Iranian power and influence triggered a new arms race. In late July the U.S. administration announced plans for distributing huge weapons supplies to its moderate allies over the coming decade: $20 billion to Saudi Arabia, $13 billion to Egypt, and $30 billion to Israel. Following the much-criticized showing of its ground forces in the 2006 Lebanon war, in July Israel allocated an additional $11 billion in military spending over 10 years, mainly to beef up the land army and enhance the air force's long-range strike capacity.

      Israeli domestic politics also experienced dramatic developments during the year. On April 30 the Winograd Commission investigating the Lebanon war issued a scathing report on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's wartime performance. Although his popularity plummeted, Olmert showed great political skill in hanging on to power. Olmert was not the only Israeli leader under pressure. On June 29, just two weeks before his term was due to end, Pres. Moshe Katzav was forced to resign over a sex scandal. He was accused of having sexually harassed 11 women who had worked with him at various stages of his career; the allegations included two cases of rape. In a plea bargain Katzav confessed to lesser charges in return for a six-month suspended sentence. He was succeeded as president on July 15 by 83-year-old former prime minister Shimon Peres.

      Despite the second Lebanon war and the increased defense spending, the Israeli economy showed great resilience. Growth remained robust at more than 5% for the fourth straight year; unemployment was down from 8.4% to 7.7%; and inflation was expected to meet the projected government figure of 2–3%. Foreign investment was slated to grow by 8%, to $15.3 billion, and the Tel Aviv stock market, despite a major stumble in August, outperformed those of the rich Western nations. Per capita GDP in 2007, adjusted for purchasing power parity, was estimated at $31,767, putting Israel on a par with Germany and France. Israel was invited in May to open talks on joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a grouping of the world's most economically advanced democratic countries.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2007

21,643 sq km (8,357 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2006 est.): 6,801,000, excluding 252,000 Jews in the West Bank
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and, from January 4, Ehud Olmert (acting until April 14)
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,278 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2006 est.): West Bank 2,697,000, including 2,445,000 Arabs and 252,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,444,000. In 2005 independent demographers, however, estimated the 2006 total West Bank population at 1,712,000 and that of the Gaza Strip at 1,144,000
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Mahmoud Abbas, assisted by Prime Ministers Ahmad Quray and, from March 29, Ismail Haniya

      After the victory of the radical Hamas in Palestinian elections, a leadership transition in Israel, and a 34-day-long war with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, the year 2006 saw Israel shelving plans for further withdrawals from Palestinian territory.

      The fact that Hezbollah's massive Katyusha rocket buildup had been facilitated by Israel's unilateral decision to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000 and that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 had been followed by Palestinian Qassam rocket fire convinced Israelis that further pullbacks would create similar security threats. In the immediate aftermath of the war in Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Olmert, Ehud ) (see Biographies), who had promised to pull back to permanent borders by 2010, announced that his plan for further withdrawals from the West Bank was “no longer relevant.”

      The war broke out on July 12, after a border skirmish in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two abducted by Hezbollah militiamen. In retaliation Israel launched a massive air operation, bombing Hezbollah headquarters and rocket stockpiles in Beirut and militia positions and rocket launchers in the south, as well as strategic targets such as the Beirut airport, roads, and bridges to prevent the abducted soldiers from being spirited out of the country and fresh military supplies from reaching Hezbollah.

      Many in the international community, with the notable exception of the United States, criticized Israel for a “lack of proportionality” in its response. Israeli decision makers, however, saw the conflict in a wide regional context and as a test of Israeli deterrence. Olmert was determined to disabuse Hezbollah of the notion that it could attack soldiers with impunity, confident that Israel would not take strong retaliatory action for fear of rocket attacks on its civilian population. Israeli military planners also saw Hezbollah's rocket buildup in the context of Iran's nuclear weapons drive: Hezbollah's prime purpose, in their view, was to threaten Israel with devastating rocket attacks if it or the United States took preemptive military action against Iran. The Israeli war effort, therefore, was aimed at restoring Israel's deterrent power, removing the Hezbollah rocket threat, tipping the regional balance against Iran, and creating conditions for the return of the abducted soldiers.

 The initial air strikes were extremely effective. In just 39 minutes on the night of July 12, the Israeli air force destroyed most of Hezbollah's Iranian-made Zilzal long-range rockets, the militia's prized strategic weapon. The intensive air campaign forced Hezbollah leaders underground and took a toll on its elite militia fighters. The strikes also caused hundreds of civilian deaths, however, and they failed to stop relentless Katyusha attacks on northern Israel. It soon became apparent that the rocket fire could be stopped only by a large-scale ground operation. Inexplicably, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made only small forays into Hezbollah strongholds near the border. The long-planned sweeping ground offensive was delayed until the last few days of the war, in an 11th-hour attempt to influence the terms of the cease-fire.

      During the war, Hezbollah had been able to fire an average of more than 100 rockets a day, and it claimed “a divine strategic victory” on the grounds that the vaunted IDF had been unable to stop the Katyusha fire. Israeli leaders, however, saw the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought the fighting to an end on August 14, as a major strategic gain. It called for an embargo on arms to Hezbollah, removal of the militiamen from southern Lebanon, and the deployment in the south of the Lebanese army, backed by a large multinational UN force. Israeli leaders also maintained that Hezbollah had lost 500–800 fighters and that its military wing had been far more severely hurt than was generally realized.

      After the fighting there was acute disappointment in Israel over the national leadership, particularly on two counts—failure to meet the needs of the home front under rocket attack and the poor conduct of the ground war. Military analysts and former generals argued that the offensive should have been launched far earlier. In addition, reservists returning from the front complained of confused orders as well as shortages of food, water, and equipment. Under intense public pressure, Olmert set up a commission of inquiry into all aspects of the way in which the war had been conducted. The war caused widespread damage, with losses at an estimated $7 billion–$15 billion to Lebanon and $1.6 billion–$3 billion to Israel. In the fighting, 163 Israelis, including 44 civilians, were killed; in addition to Hezbollah fighters, more than 1,000 Lebanese, most of them civilians, died.

      The war in Lebanon diverted attention from the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, which had escalated significantly after the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier on June 25. As Palestinian militiamen in Gaza continued to fire Qassam rockets at nearby Israeli towns and villages, the IDF stepped up its cross-border raids, killing hundreds of Palestinian fighters and arresting many more.

      Hopes for Israeli-Palestinian peace moves faded with the accession of the radical Hamas in Palestinian elections held on January 25. (See Sidebar (Palestinian Election ).) Israel, together with most of the international community, refused to have any dealings with the Hamas-led government unless it accepted three conditions: recognition of Israel's right to exist, acceptance of previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and renunciation of terrorism. When Hamas rejected these demands, leading Western governments suspended aid, exacerbating already harsh socioeconomic conditions, especially in Gaza. In an effort to get the boycott lifted, Hamas negotiated with Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah party on the formation of a national unity government. Hamas was ready to impose a temporary cease-fire and empower Abbas to negotiate with Israel but not to recognize the Jewish state. When this approach failed, Abbas threatened to disperse the parliament and call new elections; Hamas leaders warned that such a move could lead to civil war. In mid-November, negotiations resumed on the formation of a new, less-radical government.

      In Israel's national elections held on March 28, Olmert's newly established Kadima Party won. In what was dubbed the “big bang” in Israeli politics, his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, had broken away from the right-wing Likud in November 2005 to form a more centrist party. The move significantly altered the political landscape, placing Kadima and Labour at the centre of the political spectrum. Early preelection polls indicated that Sharon would be reelected by a huge margin, but on Jan. 4, 2006, he suffered an incapacitating brain hemorrhage. Olmert took over as acting prime minister, paving the way for his election in March.

      In the ballot Kadima, Labour, and the centrist Pensioners' Party won 55 of the 120 Knesset (parliament) seats (Kadima 29, Labour 19, and Pensioners 7). Right-wing parties won only 32 seats (Likud 12, Yisrael Beiteinu 11, and National Union–National Religious Party 9); the left-wing Meretz 5; religious parties 18 (Shas 12 and Torah Judaism 6); and Arab-backed parties 10 (Raʿam-Taʿal 4, Hadash-Communists 3, National Democratic Assembly [Balad] 3).

      Olmert formed a 67-member coalition with Labour, Shas, and the Pensioners, with a second major withdrawal from the West Bank its top priority. But the war in Lebanon undermined public confidence in unilateral action, and as the nation moved right, Olmert's popularity plummeted, and pundits predicted further political realignment. In late October, Olmert strengthened his coalition by bringing the hawkish 11-member Yisrael Beiteinu faction into the government.

      Despite the war, the economy continued to grow at a rate of more than 4% for the second successive year. Inflation remained low, at around 2%, and the shekel made unprecedented gains against the dollar. After an initial wobble at the start of the fighting, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange climbed to new heights. The war, however, did generate budgetary demands. More than $1 billion was needed for the rehabilitation of northern Israel and an additional $5 billion for the defense budget. The fiscal challenge was to meet military and social needs without creating inflationary pressure.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2006

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2005 est.): 6,667,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,278 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2005 est.): West Bank 2,632,000, including 2,386,000 Arabs and 246,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,481,000, including 1,481,000 Arabs and no Jews (as of late August 2005)
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
Presidents Rauhi Fattouh (acting) and, from January 9, Mahmoud Abbas, assisted by Prime Minister Ahmad Quray

 Israel's unilateral withdrawal or “disengagement” from Gaza and the northern West Bank was the seminal event of 2005 and could prove to be a historical turning point in relations between Israel and the Palestinians. The action seemed to herald the beginning of the end of Israel's 38-year occupation and opened up possibilities for a new Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogue. The pullout also reinforced an earlier cease-fire. After more than four years of fighting, the lull helped to change the economic climate on both sides.

      The withdrawal was not easily achieved; it entailed the evacuation of more than 9,000 Jewish settlers and encountered strong domestic opposition. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's right-wing opponents challenged him in the Knesset (parliament) and in the courts. They also held mass demonstrations and blocked major roads. The violent clashes that many feared would erupt during the evacuation, however, failed to materialize. Palestinian militiamen, who had threatened to snipe at the retreating Israelis, also held their fire.

      The removal in August of 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and 4 in the northern West Bank took less than a week, and no one was seriously hurt. More than 50,000 soldiers and police participated in the operation, and by sheer weight of numbers, they succeeded in evacuating the settlers with minimal force and in deterring Palestinian attacks. On September 12, 38 years after Israel conquered the Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War, the last Israeli soldiers left Gaza.

      Addressing the UN General Assembly three days later, Sharon announced that Israel was ready to make more “painful concessions,” and he recognized the Palestinians' right to statehood. The Palestinians “are also entitled to freedom and to a national, sovereign existence in a state of their own,” he declared. The Israeli withdrawal was widely acclaimed by the international community. It left the Palestinian Authority in control of Gaza, except for its airspace and territorial waters, and was hailed as a significant step toward the establishment of a Palestinian state. In the fierce domestic debate, Sharon argued that the pullout was of vital strategic importance; it consolidated Israel's Jewish majority, improved its defensive lines, and assured it of wide international backing. Sharon's opponents chastised him, however, for unilaterally handing over land to the Palestinians, and they argued that in doing so he was simply inviting more terrorism.

      Spearheaded by the Judea, Samaria, and Gaza Settlers' Council, a well-financed antidisengagement campaign failed to win over public opinion or to deter the prime minister. The antidisengagement forces lost key battles in the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and on the streets. Their Knesset campaign imploded on March 28 when, by a vote of 72 to 39, the legislators rejected their call for a national referendum on the withdrawal plan. Their legal struggle disintegrated when on June 9 the Supreme Court denied 12 petitions against the evacuation legislation. In late July antidisengagement forces lost a crucial standoff with the authorities when police prevented an estimated 200,000 demonstrators from marching on the Gaza settlements.

      The most serious challenge to Sharon, however, came from within his hawkish Likud Party; his disengagement policy sparked an internal rebellion. Months of ferment against the prime minister came to a head when his chief rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, resigned as finance minister on August 7, just 10 days before the scheduled withdrawal, and challenged him for the leadership. In a first trial of strength, Sharon narrowly defeated a motion by Netanyahu, a former prime minister, to bring forward to November a party leadership primary that was scheduled for spring 2006. In late November, however, frustrated by continued sniping at his leadership, Sharon dramatically broke away from Likud, taking party moderates with him to form a new centrist party he would lead in early elections scheduled for March 2006.

      There were also major changes in Palestinian politics. The death of Yasir Arafat on Nov. 11, 2004, paved the way for the emergence of a more moderate Palestinian leadership. Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected on January 9 to succeed Arafat as president, renounced the use of terrorism against Israel and began negotiating a cease-fire. During a summit in early February at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Shaykh, Sharon and Abbas announced a mutual suspension of hostilities, ostensibly ending more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, in the so-called second intifadah. Abbas, however, could not guarantee the compliance of Hamas and other radical Palestinian militia groups, and it took several more weeks of Egyptian mediation before the groups agreed to honour the temporary truce until the end of 2005. Though Hamas and other radical militias observed the cease-fire for the most part, sporadic terror continued. There were several suicide bombings, and hundreds of Qassam rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli settlements in and around Gaza before and immediately after the evacuation.

      The disengagement from Gaza and the renewed dialogue with the Palestinians enhanced Israel's international and regional standing, and there were some significant foreign policy achievements, particularly with Arab and Muslim countries. Soon after the Sharm al-Shaykh summit in February, Jordan and Egypt sent back the ambassadors they had recalled after the outbreak of the second intifadah. Speculation occurred about an imminent breakthrough in relations between Israel and Pakistan, a Muslim country that had ostracized the Jewish state, after a highly publicized meeting on September 1 in Istanbul between the two countries' foreign ministers. The strongest opposition to these winds of change came from Shiʿite Iran, whose new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud ) (see Biographies), raised a storm of international protest in late October when—at a conference in Tehran entitled “The World Without Zionism”—he called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

      Most important for Israeli foreign policy, the disengagement led to unprecedentedly close ties with the U.S. government. Still, there were some differences. Washington was critical of Israel's plans to build in an area outside Jerusalem known as “E-1” and of its delay in removing 24 unauthorized West Bank outposts. The two countries also clashed over Israel's military relationship with China, and Israel was forced to scrap a contract to upgrade unmanned air vehicles that it had sold to Beijing. To prevent future misunderstandings, on August 16 Israel and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding providing for prior consultations on potentially problematic Israeli-Sino arms deals.

      The cease-fire with the Palestinians and the disengagement fueled an economic turnaround in Israel and hopes for economic growth in Gaza. For the second consecutive year, Israel's GNP grew by about 4%, and in the months after disengagement, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange reached record levels. On the Palestinian side, the Group of Eight meeting of industrialized nations promised to raise $3 billion annually over the next three years for investment in Gaza. By year's end, however, there was little sign of the economic transformation that the fund-raisers had hoped would underpin the cease-fire.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2005

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2004 est.): 6,562,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2004 est.): West Bank 2,544,000, including 2,306,000 Arabs and 238,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,414,000, including 1,406,000 Arabs and 8,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
Presidents Yasir Arafat, Ahmad Quray (acting) from October 29, and, from November 11, Rauhi Fattouh (acting), assisted by Prime Minister Ahmad Quray

      Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw Israeli soldiers and settlers unilaterally from Gaza and part of the West Bank dominated the Israeli-Palestinian agenda in 2004. The emergence of a more pragmatic Palestinian leadership after the death on November 11 of Pres. Yasir Arafat (see Obituaries (Arafat, Yasir )) raised hopes that the “disengagement plan” could lead to a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The plan announced in late 2003 as the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation entered its fourth year, was presented as a significant step toward a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in accordance with the goals of the internationally approved “road map” to peace. As such, the disengagement plan received extensive international and regional backing. In Israel, however, it encountered angry right-wing opposition, and there were fears of armed clashes between radical Jewish settlers and the Israeli military.

      The plan was officially launched at a White House meeting between Sharon and U.S. Pres. George W. Bush on April 14. In a letter to Sharon, Bush described the initiative as “bold and historic” and, in lieu of any negotiations with the Palestinians, seemed to give the Israeli side an American quid pro quo for the mooted withdrawal from Palestinian territory. Writing that it was unrealistic to expect Israel to return to the pre-1967 war border known as the “Green Line” and that the Palestinian refugees' right of return would be to Palestine, rather than to Israel, Bush seemed to back Israel on two of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—that in a final settlement Israel could retain parts of the West Bank and that its Jewish character would not be threatened by a large influx of Palestinian refugees.

      Despite the U.S. commitments, Sharon faced major opposition to the disengagement plan inside his own Likud Party. To secure party backing in the cabinet and the Knesset (parliament), he had called for a referendum of all Likud members, which he hoped the Bush letter would help him win. The party hawks, dubbing the withdrawal “a prize for terror,” turned the tables on Sharon, and on May 2 the Likud voted 60% to 40% against the disengagement plan.

      Undeterred, Sharon pressed ahead, winning government approval in a vote on June 7 after firing two ministers from the hawkish National Union Party and agreeing to accept an ostensibly modified version of his disengagement strategy. The revised plan allowed for the evacuation “in principle” of 21 settlements in Gaza and 4 in the West Bank but stipulated that Sharon would have to get renewed cabinet sanction for any actual removal of settlements and settlers. In the wake of this vote, the National Union Party (with seven seats in the Knesset) and two of the hawkish National Religious Party's six Knesset members bolted the coalition, leaving Sharon with a minority government backed by just 59 of the Knesset's 120 members.

      Compounding Sharon's leadership problems, right-wingers and settlers challenged the legitimacy of his disengagement policy, claiming that it was diametrically opposed to the platform on which he had been elected. On October 26, amid public protests by settlers, the Knesset approved the revised plan 67–45 with 7 abstentions. Sharon dismissed two Likud cabinet members who had voted against it, and the four remaining national religious party Knesset members withdrew from the coalition. Opponents, led by Finance Minister (and former prime minister) Benjamin Netanyahu, insisted that Sharon renew his mandate through a nationwide referendum or national elections, but he refused and promised that the settlements in question would be evacuated in 2005. As domestic tension mounted, the Shin Bet security service reported threats by Jewish extremists on Sharon's life. Some analysts warned that armed clashes would erupt when the army and police tried to evacuate recalcitrant settlers.

      In early December, however, a crisis over the state budget seemed likely to solve Sharon's coalition problems. After he fired secular Shinui cabinet ministers who voted against the budget because of a special allocation for religious Jews, the Likud central committee reversed an earlier ruling against coalition negotiations with the Labor Party, paving the way for a stable majority coalition with Labor, which strongly backed the disengagement plan, and with at least one of two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

      Sharon's commitment to withdraw from some Palestinian territory failed to put an end to the intifadah (uprising) that had erupted in 2000. The barrier that Israel was erecting on the West Bank, however, changed the nature of Palestinian violence. It led to a marked decline in the number of suicide bombings in Israel proper, and those that occurred took place in the south of the country where the barrier was not yet in place. The Palestinians focused on firing Qassam rockets over the barrier around Gaza into Israel proper, mainly at the small Negev town of Sderot. By late summer these attacks had become an almost daily affair, and after two young children were killed by rocket fire in Sderot on September 29, Israel launched Operation Days of Penitence, which it described as an ongoing rolling attack, targeting Palestinian militants and rocket-firing teams. Dozens of Palestinians—armed militiamen and civilians—were killed.

      On July 9 the UN International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled the barrier illegal and called on Israel to dismantle it and compensate Palestinians who had suffered as a result of its construction. The ICJ was scathingly critical of the route Israel had chosen, some of it deep inside West Bank territory. Rejecting the ruling as politically motivated, Israel argued that the ICJ had failed to take into account the reason for building the fence: Palestinian terrorist attacks. Although the ruling was not binding, the Palestinians saw it as a major victory in the diplomatic battle to isolate Israel, and in mid-August 115 nonaligned nations meeting in Durban, S.Af., called for sanctions against Israel. To placate international opinion—and in line with rulings by its own Supreme Court—Israel announced that it would reroute much of the fence closer to the Green Line.

      In four years of relentless fighting, more than 1,000 Israelis and nearly 3,000 Palestinians had died. Palestinian GNP plummeted to just 30% of what it had been in 1999. The economic hardship undermined the status of President Arafat's Palestinian Authority and, combined with concerns over Arafat's deteriorating health, gave rise to fears that after the Israeli withdrawal the radical Hamas might gain control of Gaza. To preempt this, Israel concentrated most of its counterterrorist activities against Hamas, assassinating most of its top leaders—cofounder Sheik Ahmed Yassin (see Obituaries (Yassin, Sheikh Ahmed )) on March 22, Abdel Aziz Rantisi on April 17, the Syria-based Subhi Khalil on September 26, and Adnan al-Ghoul, the reported “father of the Qassam rocket,” on October 21. The more Israel targeted Hamas, however, the more support the fundamentalist organization gained on the Palestinian street, and critics suggested that the Israeli policy might be counterproductive.

      Despite ongoing Palestinian attacks, there were signs that the Israeli economy was emerging from a three-year slump. In the first half of 2004, GNP grew by 4.1%, and fixed investment rose by 2.9%, after a drop of 8.4% in the second half of 2003. Per capita consumption, often used as a measure of standard of living, was up 2.3%, following a 5.8% rise in the second half of 2003. The business sector grew by 5.9%, investment in industry increased by 4.5%, exports of goods and services rose 14.9%, industrial exports—excluding diamonds—were up 28.5%, and agricultural exports surged 45%. The recovery failed to trickle down to the weaker socioeconomic sectors, however, and unemployment reached a 12-year high above 11%. Netanyahu was accused of creating an economy for the rich, with critics pointing to the poverty statistics, which showed that despite the economic upturn, 1.3 million Israelis (one Israeli in five) and a third of Israeli children were still living below the poverty line.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2004

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2003 est.): 6,473,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area under disputed administration:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi); Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi)
(2003 est.): West Bank 2,467,000, including 2,237,000 Arabs and 230,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,304,000, including 1,297,000 Arabs and 7,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Yasir Arafat, assisted by Prime Ministers Mahmoud Abbas from April 30 and, from September 9, Ahmad Qurei

      After nearly three years of relentless bloodletting, Israel and the Palestinians responded in mid-2003 to international efforts to promote peace. The early promise of a breakthrough proved illusory, however, and the cycle of violence continued. Intense Israeli military pressure, following reoccupation of Palestinian cities in the West Bank and a determined hands-on American approach in the wake of a victorious spring campaign in Iraq, had led to the emergence of a more pragmatic Palestinian leadership that was willing to consider ending terrorism in order to achieve Palestinian goals through international—especially U.S.—pressure on Israel.

      On April 30, after Mahmoud Abbas (see Biographies (Abbas, Mahmoud )) was installed as the Palestinian prime minister, representatives of the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the UN formally presented the American-initiated peace plan, known as the “road map for peace in the Middle East,” which outlined steps for the establishment of a Palestinian state that would coexist peacefully with Israel. The Palestinians accepted the plan immediately. The Israeli cabinet approved it on May 25, with 14 reservations. By pushing the decision through over strong right-wing opposition, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struck a new conciliatory chord: “It's not right for Israel to rule over 3.5 million Palestinians,” he declared.

      Sharon, who had consistently refused to meet with Palestinian Pres. Yasir Arafat because of Arafat's alleged ties to terrorism, emphasized the changed diplomatic climate by hosting Abbas in his Jerusalem office on May 29. In an effort to invigorate the peace process, Sharon, Abbas, and U.S. Pres. George W. Bush held a high-profile summit on June 4 at the Red Sea port of Al-ʿAqabah, Jordan. Abbas declared an end to the armed uprising against Israel, renounced terrorism against Israelis “wherever they might be,” and acknowledged “Jewish suffering through the ages.” Sharon asserted that it was in Israel's interest “for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state.” Bush affirmed the U.S. commitment to “Israel's security as a vibrant Jewish state” and to “freedom and statehood for the Palestinian people.”

      On June 29, Palestinian militia groups, including the radical Islamicist Hamas and Islamic Jihad, declared an initial three-month cease-fire. On the next day, Israel withdrew troops from the Gaza Strip and handed over security control to the Palestinian Authority. On July 2 Israel ceded security control in Bethlehem and declared that the handover of additional cities would be contingent on the Palestinians' fulfillment of their obligations under the road map.

      Although the road map's main demand required that the Palestinians preempt future terrorist attacks by disbanding terrorist groups and collecting their weapons, the Palestinians maintained that any attempt to do so would lead to civil war. Instead, they focused on Israel's obligation to dismantle “unauthorized” West Bank settlement outposts and called for the release of more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; Israel's removal of a handful of settlements and the release of a few hundred prisoners was viewed as inadequate.

      The Palestinians also complained about a security barrier Israel was building to keep terrorists from crossing from the West Bank into Israel proper. After a White House meeting with Abbas in late July, Bush urged Israel to erect the barrier as closely as possible to the pre-1967 war border between Israel and the West Bank. The barrier's route became a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S. Israel insisted on building part of it around the large settlement of Ariʾel, 19 km (12 mi) inside the West Bank. The Americans threatened to reduce aid to Israel by the amount spent on the barrier in Palestinian territory and charged that the barrier prejudiced the outcome of peace talks and encroached on everyday Palestinian life.

      When the Abbas government failed to take action to dismantle the terrorist militias, as required by the road map, Israel launched a series of targeted assassinations against Hamas military and political leaders, and the cease-fire collapsed. Abbas, unable to stop work on the fence or to ameliorate Palestinian living conditions, lost the last vestiges of support he had had among the Palestinian public. He charged that his policy of moderation had been undercut by the U.S., Israel, and Arafat. Abbas resigned on September 6, following an angry demonstration outside the Legislative Council building in Ram Allah, where he had gone to seek a renewed vote of confidence after just 100 days in office. His departure threw the nascent peace process into deep disarray. Arafat nominated Ahmad Qurei, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a close confidant, to replace Abbas.

      Israel placed the blame for Abbas's failure squarely on Arafat. Defining him as an “obstacle” that had to be “removed,” the government decided “in principle” on September 11 to expel the Palestinian president. The decision sparked a wave of international and Palestinian protest.

      Failure to take the process forward through official channels spawned two significant private peace initiatives. In June, Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel's Shin Bet General Security Service, and Sari Nusseibeh, president of al-Quds University, launched the “People's Voice” petition in support of their six principles for a final peace deal. In mid-October other Israeli and Palestinian moderates produced a fully articulated model peace treaty, known as the “Geneva Agreement” in deference to logistic support provided by the Swiss authorities. The fact that such accords were possible put pressure on the Sharon government to come out with an initiative of its own, and in late November the prime minister reiterated his readiness to make “painful concessions” for peace but warned that if the Palestinians failed to seize the opportunity, Israel would take unspecified “unilateral steps.”

      Despite Sharon's failure to end the violence or right the depressed Israeli economy, his leadership position remained strong. Although a rash of corruption scandals had touched him, his family, and his party, he led the Likud to a landslide victory in early elections on January 28, winning 38 seats in the 120-member Knesset; the Labor Party won 19. The staunchly secular Shinui emerged as Israel's third largest party with 15 seats, ahead of the ultra-Orthodox Shas with 11. Shinui's inclusion in the government promised to shake up criteria for citizenship in Israel and to challenge the Orthodox hegemony over religion, but little change actually occurred.

      Much of Shinui's electoral success came at the expense of the Labor Party, which suffered a disastrous year. Its election debacle was followed by bitter party infighting, which led to the resignation on May 4 of its newly elected leader, former Haifa mayor Amram Mitzna. To defer another potentially divisive leadership struggle, 79-year-old Shimon Peres, a former prime minister and party leader, took over as Labor's temporary chairman.

      The three-year-long economic recession continued through 2003, although the relative quiet of the brief cease-fire helped spark a minor upturn in the summer as Israelis, less concerned for their safety, flocked to the shops. Earlier, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had taken steps to boost international confidence by slashing nearly $2.5 billion from the national budget of $67.5 billion. The cuts deepened unemployment, however, which reached nearly 11%; a record 300,000 Israelis were out of work. The cuts also hit poorer Israelis who relied on social security payments to raise their incomes.

      In early July Vicki Knafo, a 43-year-old woman from the Negev desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, captured the national imagination when, draped in a large Israeli flag, she walked more than 200 km (125 mi) to Jerusalem and set up a camp outside the Finance Ministry to protest cuts in supplementary benefits to single mothers. Three months later, after having failed to extract any concessions from Netanyahu, she was forced to admit defeat.

      The standoff between Netanyahu and the demonstrators raised fundamental questions about the nature of the Israeli state. Netanyahu claimed that he was weaning poor Israelis from a culture of handouts to a culture of work. His critics, however, pointed to the dearth of available jobs and argued that the finance minister was destroying Israel's welfare state and widening already-large gaps between Israel's rich and poor.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2003

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2002 est.): 6,394,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi), of which (prior to September 2000) 342 sq km is under Palestinian administration, 3,369 sq km under Israeli administration, and 2,189 sq km under joint administration; Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi), of which (prior to September 2000) about 236 sq km is under Palestinian administration and about 127 sq km under Israeli administration
(2002 est.): West Bank 2,414,000, including 2,204,000 Arabs and 210,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,269,000, including 1,262,000 Arabs and 7,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Yasir Arafat

 The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and efforts to break out of the cycle of violence continued to dominate the Middle East agenda in 2002. (See Map—>.) Perhaps the most significant political development was the American disaffection with Yasir Arafat as leader of the Palestinians and the attempt to create an alternative Palestinian leadership that would be able reach a peaceful modus vivendi with Israel. Arafat was seen by both the Americans and the Israelis as deeply involved in Palestinian terror and an obstacle to peace.

      The shift in the American attitude toward Arafat occurred after the Israeli seizure on January 3 of the Karine A, a ship owned by the Palestinians and filled with arms acquired in Iran. Initially the U.S. was uncertain that the arms had been purchased (reportedly for $15 million) on Arafat's authority; he had repeatedly denied any involvement. Israel was able to document, however, that the contraband had been bought by Fuad Shubaki, a close associate of Arafat whom he often used as a financial go-between. On January 13 the CIA announced that it was convinced of Arafat's direct involvement in the controversial shipment and of his links with Tehran. A few weeks later President Bush suspended the U.S. mediation mission headed by Gen. Anthony Zinni and declared that he “was disappointed in Arafat.” On February 5 Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Arafat “must…confront…terror and choose…peace over violence. He cannot have it both ways.”

      In early April, during a major ground operation, Israeli forces discovered documents in Arafat's Ram Allah-based headquarters that appeared to show his personal involvement in terror, especially his links to the Tanzim-al-Aqsa Brigades, the young militant cadres affiliated with his Fatah faction. In a major policy speech on June 24, Bush called for the Arafat era to be ended and implored the Palestinians to elect new leaders who were “not compromised by terror.”

      Bush's speech was supported immediately by a joint Israeli-American statement insisting on reform of Palestinian political, financial, and military institutions. “Reform” was seen, at least partly, as a euphemism for sidelining Arafat. From the Israeli perspective another key demand was reform of the Palestinian security services, in the hope that once this reform had been implemented, the Palestinians would be able to control terrorist attacks. The demands for reform and Israel's tightening military grip on the Palestinian territories sparked a debate among leading Palestinian politicians and intellectuals on whether violence was serving their cause.

      The international community made clear its willingness to support Palestinian claims to statehood if the violence stopped. On March 12 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1397, “affirming a vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders.” President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to Palestinian statehood in his June 24 policy statement, and on July 16 the “quartet”—made up of the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the UN—endorsed Bush's vision of a Palestinian state within three years of a cease-fire and meaningful Palestinian reform.

      Regional developments also seemed to push toward Israeli-Palestinian accommodation. In late February, Saudi Arabia announced a peace plan by which Israel would withdraw from all occupied Arab land in return for normal ties with all the Arab states and a formal end to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Saudi plan was unanimously endorsed at an Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 28, but continued Israeli-Palestinian fighting kept it on the back burner. In the run-up to the anticipated U.S. attack on Iraq in the late summer and autumn, the U.S. constrained Israeli military actions against the Palestinians.I

      Though the year began with one of the few periods of relative quiet in the uprising between Palestine and Israel—known as the second intifadah—Israel's targeted killing on January 14 of Riad Karmi, head of Arafat's Fatah-Tanzim in Tul Karm, shattered a six-week lull and sparked a ferocious 10-week wave of violence. It started with a deadly Fatah-Tanzim attack on a 13-year-old girl's bat mitzvah celebration in Hadera in mid-January and culminated in a Fundamentalist Hamas suicide bombing in late March, in which nearly 30 mostly elderly Jews sitting down to a Passover meal at a hotel in the seaside resort of Netanya were killed. Israel responded by launching Operation Defensive Shield, by far its biggest ground operation since the eruption of hostilities in September 2000. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) moved into West Bank cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps, killing and capturing wanted men and destroying weapons and explosives. After a week of fighting, the U.S. began pressing Israel to withdraw, and a few weeks later it complied.

      When Israel launched Operation Determined Path in mid-June, however, and reoccupied virtually the entire West Bank, there was no such American pressure. After President Bush's censure of Arafat, Israel seemed to have been given a free hand to act against Palestinian violence. Indeed, Israel persisted with its controversial targeted killings of terrorist activists. In late July, Hamas military chief Salah Shehadeh (see Obituaries (Shehada, Salah Mustafa )) was assassinated when an Israeli F-16 fighter-bomber dropped a one-ton bomb on his Gaza apartment, killing 16 civilians, including nine children. The assassination sparked a new round of Hamas suicide attacks and undermined European efforts to arrange a cease-fire.

      Despite increasing American support, Israel faced great international criticism, notably from Europe, for its handling of the intifadah. The most heated criticism came after the IDF's action in early April in the Jenin refugee camp, in which Palestinians claimed that a massacre had taken place. A UN report in late July disputed these claims but criticized the Israelis for having not allowed humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians for several days. Though calls for a boycott of Israeli goods were made in some parts of Europe, they had little impact.

      The intifadah took a tremendous toll financially on both Israel and the Palestinians. For the Palestinians, economic activity essentially ceased and food supplies were strained after Israel imposed curfews on Palestinian cities to halt terrorist movements. The effects on the Israelis were also serious: investments declined; gross domestic product per capita decreased 6% compared with figures for 2000–01; fewer than 400,000 tourists visited Israel in the first half of 2002; and the percentage of Israelis unemployed topped 10%, breaking previous record levels. The government introduced a number of austerity programs but failed to reinvigorate the economy or restore public confidence in its economic policies.

      In late October the Labor Party, led by Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, withdrew from the national unity government on the grounds that the state budget did not address the acute economic problems that the country was facing. On November 5, after an attempt to set up an alternative coalition with the far right failed, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to hold new elections within 90 days. Two weeks later, Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna won the Labor leadership primary and defeated Ben-Eliezer and Haim Ramon, chairman of the Knesset's foreign affairs and defense committee. On November 28 Sharon easily staved off a challenge from former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership. A general election was scheduled for January 2003.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2002

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2001 est.): 6,258,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and, from March 7, Ariel Sharon
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi), of which (prior to September 2000) 342 sq km is under Palestinian administration, 3,369 sq km under Israeli administration, and 2,189 sq km under joint administration; Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi), of which about 236 sq km is under Palestinian administration and about 127 sq km under Israeli administration
(2001 est.): West Bank 2,268,000, including 2,069,000 Arabs and 199,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,203,000, including 1,196,000 Arabs and 7,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Yasir Arafat

      Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat declared a cease-fire in the yearlong Palestinian confrontation with Israel—known as the second intifadah—but the violence soon resumed, and it reached a crescendo in December.

      On February 6 the hawkish Ariel Sharon (see Biographies (Sharon, Ariel )), leader of the right-wing Likud, was elected prime minister, defeating Ehud Barak by 62.4% to 37.6%. The Israeli electorate swung dramatically to the right in the wake of the eruption of the September 2000 intifadah. Despite his sweeping victory, Sharon had only 19 Likud members in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), but he formed a broad-based coalition government supported by 77 Knesset members from seven political parties, including Labor.

      The power-sharing arrangement with Labor in the “government of national unity” was reflected in the distribution of cabinet posts; Labor's Shimon Peres and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer secured the key foreign and defense portfolios, respectively. Another Labor Knesset member, Salah Tarif, of the minority Druze sect, became the first non-Jewish cabinet minister.

      One of the new coalition's first acts was to amend the electoral law. The two-ballot system, in which Israelis cast one vote for prime minister and another for a party, was abolished. The system had been designed to create a more stable government, but it had strengthened small one-issue groupings at the expense of the two major national parties, Labor and Likud. It was replaced by a return to one-vote proportional representation, with the key addition of a constructive no-confidence mechanism, by which the opposition would have to muster 61 of the 120 Knesset votes and present an alternative candidate in order to oust a sitting prime minister.

      Three days before Sharon took office on March 7, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the seaside town of Netanya. The fundamentalist Hamas organization announced that the bomber was the first of 10 “martyrs” waiting to greet Sharon's new government. Other bombings followed in Hadera, Binyamina, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Israel responded with a policy of “targeted killings,” arguing that the only way to preempt the bombers was to assassinate the men planning to send them. Palestinian ambushes and drive-by shootings, which took a heavy toll in Jewish settler lives in the occupied West Bank, prompted Israeli troops to seal off Palestinian towns and villages to restrict Palestinian movement, but the measures failed to curb the violence.

      According to the Israeli army, there were about 8,000 “serious” Palestinian attacks during the first year of the intifadah, 84 of them inside Israel proper. A total of 176 Israelis lost their lives, and 1,742 were injured; the number of Palestinians killed was 604, and between 8,500 and 10,000 were injured.

      After taking office, Sharon announced two major policy changes: no negotiations with the Palestinians as long as violence continued and interim rather than final arrangements when the shooting stopped. Two weeks later he visited the U.S. and persuaded the administration of Pres. George W. Bush to back his demand for a cease-fire as a precondition for talks with the Palestinians. Sharon's aim was to contain the intifadah through a combination of military action and international pressure on Arafat. The policy suffered from an inherent contradiction, however; the tougher the measures that Israel took, the less international support it got. In addition, the Israelis demanded an end to violence before new peace proposals would be put on the table, and the Palestinians insisted on some idea of the direction that a new peace process might lead before calling an end to the intifadah; as a result, the fighting continued.

      On May 21 a fact-finding committee led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell presented its report on the causes of the violence, and both the Israelis and the Palestinians expressed readiness to accept Mitchell's call for a four-phase process leading to political reengagement: a cease-fire, a cooling-off period, confidence-building measures, and resumption of negotiations.

      There was no sign of a lull in fighting, however, and on June 1 a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Tel Aviv discotheque, killing 20 Israeli teenagers. The outrage drew widespread international condemnation, and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who was in Tel Aviv near the scene of the carnage, pressured Arafat into calling a cease-fire. U.S. CIA Director George Tenet flew in to negotiate the terms, and on June 13 both sides announced a cease-fire designed to jump-start the Mitchell process; it failed to hold, however.

      Achieving a durable cease-fire proved elusive. The Palestinians demanded international observers to oversee any truce, but Israel refused, agreeing only to reactivate the existing Supreme Security Coordination Committee, consisting of Israeli, Palestinian, and CIA officials. More important, the Palestinians sought reassurance that negotiation with the Sharon government would lead to a final settlement, at the very least along the lines of the understandings reached with the government of Ehud Barak in Taba, Egypt, in late January. Those discussions were based on the so-called “Clinton parameters,” the bridging proposals announced by then U.S. president Bill Clinton in December 2000. The parameters allocated 94–96% of the West Bank to the Palestinians with an exchange of land in Israel proper to compensate for the remaining 4–6% and made equally far-reaching proposals on the core issues of Jerusalem and refugees. Sharon declared that he would be ready to discuss only a string of less-ambitious interim agreements, but he also said he would be ready to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state.

      The ongoing intifadah led to an erosion of Israel's position in the Arab world and to widespread criticism of Israeli countermeasures by the international community. A wave of anti-Israel sentiment came to a head at the UN-sponsored World Conference Against Racism in Durban, S.Af., in early September. Arab and Muslim countries pressed for strong anti-Israel language in the final communiqué, including a statement equating Zionism with racism. The United States and Israel walked out.

      On October 17 Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeʾevi was assassinated in retaliation for the killing in August of Palestinian Popular Front leader Abu Ali Mustafa. (See Obituaries (Abu Ali Mustafa ).) The action led Israeli forces to invade Bethlehem and five other West Bank cities. The violence escalated, and Sharon cut short a visit to the U.S. when 26 Israelis were killed and more than 270 injured in a string of suicide and car bombings in a crowded Jerusalem mall late on the night of December 1 and on a bus in Haifa the following morning. By mid-December, under pressure from the U.S. and other countries, Arafat called for a halt to “terrorist activities,” and he ordered the closure of about a dozen Hamas and Islamic Jihad offices.

      The intifadah brought great hardship on the Palestinians, but it also hurt Israel's economy. In the third quarter of 2000, before the fighting erupted, there had been an economic upsurge, with a staggering 9.1% increase in gross domestic product; but in the fourth quarter GDP was down by 8%, and it continued to slide by a further 0.6% in the first half of 2001. Tourism slumped to unprecedented lows, and foreign investment fell by about 70%. As the economic slowdown deepened, unemployment topped the 9% mark.

      The global downturn in high-tech activity also had a devastating economic effect. Exports were down by 26.5% in the first half of the year, owing mainly to the fall in high tech and in the diamond trade. In September, partly as a result of the slump in world money markets in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the U.S., the shekel lost about 6% of its value against the dollar. Inflation, however, remained under control, at an annual rate of about 1.5–2%.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2001

21,671 sq km (8,367 sq mi), including the Golan Heights and disputed East Jerusalem, excluding the Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas
(2000 est.): 6,107,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
Presidents Ezer Weizman, Avraham Burg (interim) from July 12, and, from August 1, Moshe Katzav
Head of government:
Prime Minister Ehud Barak
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi), of which (as of March 2000) 342 sq km is under Palestinian administration, 3,369 sq km under Israeli administration, and 2,189 sq km under joint administration; Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi), of which about 236 sq km is under Palestinian administration and about 127 sq km under Israeli administration
(2000 est.): West Bank 1,949,000, including 1,772,000 Arabs and 177,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,147,000, including 1,141,000 Arabs and 6,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Yasir Arafat

      Peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians moved tantalizingly close to a final agreement in 2000 but then degenerated into violent clashes when the two sides failed to agree on sovereignty over their holy sites in Jerusalem. A 15-day summit under U.S. auspices at the U.S. president's Camp David retreat in Maryland broke up on July 25 over the Jerusalem issue. Attempts to find a solution for the holy Temple Mount—which Jews claim as the site of their biblical temple and which Muslims call Al-Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension to heaven—continued until late September. On September 28, in a highly publicized attempt to emphasize Israeli sovereignty, government opposition leader Ariel Sharon—accompanied by a large police contingent—paid a visit to the site, sparking widespread rioting in the Palestinian-controlled areas and among Israeli Arabs in Israel.

      The unequal fighting between Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinian youths, the latter backed up by Palestinian National Authority Pres. Yasir Arafat's Tanzim militia firing light weapons, enabled the Palestinians to gain considerable support and sympathy throughout the world. More than 150 Palestinians were killed in the first month of fighting, a quarter of them children. The Palestinians accused the Israeli army of brutality; Israel accused the Palestinians of cynically exposing children to cross fire for propaganda purposes.

      Incensed at Israel's handling of the riots and concerned about the angry demonstrations in their own countries, Arab leaders gathered in Cairo on October 21 for their first summit in four years. They issued a communiqué strongly criticizing Israel and calling on Arab nations to downgrade their relations with the Jewish state. Morocco, Tunisia, and Oman closed down low-level missions, and Egypt recalled its ambassador. The Arab states, however, stopped short of economic sanctions or military intervention against Israel.

      Israeli leaders charged that Arafat, unhappy about elements in the peace package, was trying to internationalize the conflict and to render the American facilitating role less central. Some observers argued that the main stumbling block was not Jerusalem but the Palestinian refugees and that for historic and emotional reasons it was difficult for Arafat to declare an end of the conflict with less than a full resolution of that highly complex issue.

      After his government received an additional 6.1% of the West Bank on March 21, Arafat was in full or partial control of 42.9% of that area, and there was speculation that, on the crest of the new uprising, he would make the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood that he had postponed several times. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned that if he did, Israel would establish the borders between Israel and the Palestinian state unilaterally.

      The Palestinians had been swayed into believing they could force Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel's unilateral pullback from Lebanon in the face of determined resistance by Hezbollah militiamen. Israel's 18-year-long occupation of southern Lebanon ended on May 24, when it withdrew the last of its troops from its self-declared security zone. The withdrawal followed a 1999 campaign promise by Barak to pull the troops out.

      In early January it seemed as though Barak might be able to achieve a negotiated withdrawal from Lebanon in peace talks with Syria in Shepherdstown, W.Va. The Syrians, however, continued to insist on an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan Heights, while Israel wanted Syrian commitments in regard to security arrangements and normalization. To break the deadlock, U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton and Syrian Pres. Hafez al-Assad met in Geneva on March 26, but they made little headway. The talks focused on control of the northeastern coast of the Sea of Galilee. Assad insisted on a share of the water, a demand the Israelis rejected out of hand.

      Barak's foreign policy and its attendant failures eroded his position at home. He began the year with a comfortable coalition majority of 68 in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), but his determination to take the peace process forward antagonized his more hawkish coalition partners. In addition, constant friction between the secular Meretz party, which controlled the Education Ministry, and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which demanded more funding and greater autonomy for its network of religious schools, sapped the coalition's strength.

      In early July Shas, the National Religious Party, and Yisrael ba-Aliyah left the coalition, accusing Barak of being ready to concede too much to the Palestinians. Meretz, which supported Barak's peace moves, had already withdrawn from the government over its differences with Shas, and after Barak returned from Camp David, Foreign Minister David Levy resigned, pulling his Gesher party out of the coalition. Barak was then left with a minority coalition of only 40 Knesset members.

      On May 28, following allegations that he had received more than $300,000 from two millionaire businessmen friends, Pres. Ezer Weizman announced that he intended to step down in July. The attorney general decided not to prosecute because of the seven-year time lapse since the gifts had been accepted. Elections for a new president took place in the Knesset on July 31, and in a surprising result, indicative of the weakness of Barak's governing coalition, Likud's Moshe Katzav defeated One Israel's elder statesman, Shimon Peres, by 63 votes to 57.

      A millennium visit to the holy land in March by Pope John Paul II helped to further reconciliation between Christians and Jews. At Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust, the pope expressed deep sorrow for acts of persecution and anti-Semitism “against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.” Prime Minister Barak called the pope's visit to Yad Vashem “a climax of this historic journey of healing,” and said that Israelis appreciated the pope's “noble act most profoundly.”

      In the second half of 2000, there were signs that Israel was emerging from its long economic slump. The rate of economic growth, which had fallen to just 2% in each of the previous two years, doubled, and there were a number of spectacular high-tech and export successes. Labour-intensive enterprises continued to close, however, so unemployment remained high at more than 8%. The Palestinian uprising hurt tourism, and there were fears that it would frighten investors. David Klein, who replaced Jacob Frenkel as governor of the Bank of Israel in January, continued his predecessor's tight monetary policy and kept inflation at record lows.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 2000

20,320 sq km (7,846 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war (Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas)
(1999 est.): 5,939,000
Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community
Chief of state:
President Ezer Weizman
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and, from July 6, Ehud Barak
The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
Total area:
West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi), of which (as of October 1999) about 180 sq km is under Palestinian administration, about 3,720 sq km under Israeli administration, and about 2,000 sq km under joint administration; Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi), of which about 236 sq km is under Palestinian administration and about 127 sq km under Israeli administration
(1999 est.): West Bank 1,946,000, including 1,775,000 Arabs and 171,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,128,000, including 1,122,000 Arabs and 6,000 Jews
Principal administrative centres:
Ram Allah and Gaza
Head of government:
President Yasir Arafat

      On May 17, 1999, Labor Party leader Ehud Barak (see Biographies (Barak, Ehud )), a former army chief of staff, became Israel's 10th prime minister, defeating the centre-right Likud incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu in an early general election by a resounding 12% margin. In his victory speech Barak declared that he was determined to reactivate the stalled Middle East peace process and that, unlike the divisive Netanyahu, he intended to be “everyone's prime minister.”

      Two months earlier Barak had underlined his message of unity between western and eastern Jews (Ashkenazim and Sephardim, respectively), as well as between religious and secular Israelis, by launching “One Israel,” an alliance of his secular and mainly Ashkenazi Labor Party, former foreign minister David Levy's Sephardi Gesher, and the left-leaning Orthodox Meimad.

      In contrast, Netanyahu's zigzag peace policies and erratic leadership style had fragmented the Israeli right and undermined his core political support. Former defense minister Yitzhak Mordechai, former finance minister Dan Meridor, and Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo broke away from the Likud Party to form a new, more moderate Centre Party; Benny Begin, son of former Likud prime minister Menachem Begin, left the party to head a new, more hawkish group called the National Unity.

      Two days before the election, Israeli-Arab candidate Azmi Bishara, of the Balad-National Democratic Assembly, withdrew from the five-sided prime ministerial race, followed in quick succession by Begin and Mordechai. Mordechai endorsed Barak; Begin refused to do the same for Netanyahu. The final result was a landslide victory for Barak by 56.08% to 43.92% (1,791,020 votes to 1,402,474). Netanyahu immediately resigned as Likud Party leader and was succeeded by the outgoing foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, who was confirmed as party chairman in nationwide primaries on September 3.

      Although Barak's personal victory was decisive, his One Israel Party won less than 23% of the national vote and only 26 seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament). The unique Israeli two-ballot system (one ballot for prime minister and another for a party) encouraged voting for small special-interest groups. No fewer than 15 parties won seats in the Knesset, and it took Barak seven weeks to form an eclectic seven-party coalition.

      The new government was sworn in on July 6. Barak called it a “coalition for peace” and immediately embarked on a whirlwind diplomatic drive that included meetings with Turkey's Pres. Suleyman Demirel, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, Egypt's Pres. Hosni Mubarak, King Abdullah of Jordan, and U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, all of whom spoke of a restoration of trust in the Israeli leadership and new openings for peace in the Middle East. An early measure of the change in regional atmosphere was the warm reception Barak received from Arab leaders on July 25 at the funeral of Morocco's King Hassan (see Obituaries (Hassan II )) in Rabat, where Algeria's hard-line Pres. Abdelaziz Bouteflika intimated that even his country was now ready to reach an accommodation with Israel.

      Barak quickly reactivated the peace process with the Palestinians (stalled since Netanyahu suspended the interim Wye Memorandum the previous December) but proposed that the parties negotiate a new, improved interim peace package, with linkage to negotiations on a final peace agreement. The new deal, which was signed at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on September 5, provided for the conclusion of a framework agreement on permanent status by February 2000 and a final peace accord by September 2000. In return for what he saw as Barak's serious commitment to peacemaking, Arafat indicated that he would drop his threat to declare an independent Palestinian state unilaterally in May 2000.

      Under the terms of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, Israel transferred more occupied West Bank territory to Palestinian control, freed 350 Palestinian prisoners, opened a safe-passage route for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, and agreed to the building of a Palestinian seaport in Gaza. Leading Damascus-based Palestinian rejectionists, including Abu Ali Mustafa of Georges Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Naʾif Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, waived their long-standing opposition to the principle of peace with Israel, and Mustafa returned to Gaza, hoping to influence the outcome of the permanent status talks.

      Peace talks between Israel and Syria resumed in mid-December after three years of deadlock. After a high-profile meeting in Washington between Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk ash-Shara, both sides were optimistic about reaching an agreement that would finally resolve the Middle East conflict in its entirety.

      On March 1, in the run-up to the 1999 election, Barak promised to bring Israeli soldiers home from southern Lebanon by June 2000. He said he hoped to end the unpopular 17-year-long war through an agreement with Syria but indicated that he would stick to the deadline even if such an agreement failed to materialize. In the fighting in Lebanon, Israel reduced the activity of its ground forces and relied more on air power, which seemed to have a deterrent effect. In early January the Cabinet had authorized in principle a new policy of retaliation against Lebanese infrastructure targets in response to Hezbollah Shiʿite fighters' shelling Israeli civilians, and on June 24, in a series of devastating air strikes, Israel's air force destroyed bridges, a telecommunications centre, and a power plant, causing blackouts in Beirut and inducing the Lebanese government to rein in the Hezbollah.

      The ultra-Orthodox challenge to Israel's secular democracy reached new heights in 1999, with an unprecedented 200,000-strong demonstration against the Supreme Court on February 14. The ultra-Orthodox had been stung by a rash of Supreme Court decisions, including rulings that exemption from military service for students in yeshivot (religious seminaries) was no longer legally valid, while shopping on the Sabbath in the secular kibbutz communal settlements was. At year's end the ultra-Orthodox party Shas threatened to withdraw from the governing coalition until Barak agreed to increase funding for the party's state-subsidized schools.

      The economic slowdown of the preceding few years showed little sign of passing. The Barak government continued Netanyahu's tight monetary and fiscal policies, although it did seem prepared to spend more on education and infrastructure. The tight rein won international acclaim and kept inflation relatively low, but the immediate cost was sluggish growth and continued unemployment. Barak had promised to stimulate the economy and create 300,000 new jobs over the next four years. His plan was based to a large extent on renewed peacemaking and regional optimism attracting investors and promoting growth.

Leslie D. Susser

▪ 1999

      Area: 20,320 sq km (7,846 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war (Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas)

      Population (1998 est.): 5,740,000

      Capital: Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community.

      Chief of state: President Ezer Weizman

      Head of government: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

      Israeli-Palestinian relations again dominated the political agenda in 1998 as growing mistrust between the parties threatened the Oslo peace process launched in 1993. Only determined U.S. mediation kept the ailing process alive, culminating toward the end of the year in a major diplomatic coup; on October 23, after an acrimonious 19-month-long deadlock, Israel and the Palestinians signed an agreement in the U.S. that stipulated further Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Palestinian efforts to clamp down on terrorist acts against Israel. The groundbreaking deal was hammered out during an intensive nine-day summit at the Wye Plantation in Maryland. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton took the initiative to save the process after a breakdown of trust between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat had rendered further unmediated contacts between the parties futile.

      Part of the problem was Arafat's insistence that he would unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on May 4, 1999, the date the Oslo peace process was to have been completed, and Netanyahu's threat to take strong retaliatory measures against such a move. To preempt a potentially dangerous escalation, Clinton summoned Arafat and Netanyahu to the Wye Plantation and exerted heavy pressure on both.

      The result was the Wye Memorandum, which spelled out in precise detail steps to be taken by Israel and the Palestinians to complete the interim peace deal they had been negotiating for five years and also laid the foundation for negotiations on a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel would carry out two long-overdue redeployments of its troops in the West Bank in three phases over a 12-week period, and the scope of a third and final interim redeployment would be decided by a joint committee. The Palestinians promised to crack down on the Hamas and Islamic Jihad military infrastructure, arrest 30 wanted terrorists, reduce their police force, collect illegal weapons, prohibit incitement against Israel, and complete the formal annulment of clauses in the Palestinian Covenant calling for Israel's destruction.

      Netanyahu had insisted on strict reciprocity, with Israeli commitments contingent on the Palestinians' carrying out their undertakings. The Wye Memorandum also provided for a beefed-up CIA presence to monitor implementation by both sides.

      No sooner had the memorandum been signed than the familiar pattern of mutual recrimination resurfaced, calling the new agreement into question. On October 29 a Hamas suicide bomber failed in a bid to ram a bus full of schoolchildren in the Gaza area, and on November 6 two Islamic Jihad bombers were killed in an abortive car bombing outside Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market. Netanyahu took both incidents as evidence of Arafat's unwillingness to crack down on terrorism. The atmosphere was further soured by angry exchanges as to how the Palestinian Covenant was to be annulled.

      After a reaffirmation by the Palestinian leader of his strategic commitment to peace, Israel released 250 Palestinian prisoners and went ahead with the first stage of the agreed withdrawal on November 20. In an operation code-named "calling card," 10 small towns and 18 villages between Nablus and Jenin were handed over to the Palestinians. The International Airport in Gaza was inaugurated four days later with the arrival of a flight from Egypt.

      Because it entailed putting the Palestinians in control of as much as 40% of the West Bank, the Wye Memorandum brought Netanyahu into conflict with right-wing groups in Israel. Ironically, approval of the memorandum in the Knesset (parliament) on November 17 by an overwhelming 75 votes to 19 with 9 abstentions was due to blanket support by the opposition parties. As for the governing coalition, two National Religious Party Cabinet ministers voted against the memorandum, and seven other ministers abstained. In January David Levy had resigned as foreign minister, pulling his five-person Gesher faction out of the coalition and reducing Netanyahu's majority to two. Consequently, the government's chances of survival in the aftermath of the Wye agreement seemed slim. Leading figures in Netanyahu's Likud Party advised him to form a national unity government with the main opposition Labor Party or to call early elections. When Netanyahu's efforts to achieve a unity government failed, he joined with a majority of the legislators and voted to dissolve his government. Elections were scheduled for May 17, 1999. In the meantime further enactment of the provisions of the Wye accord seemed uncertain at best.

      The deadlock in the peace process until the Wye breakthrough affected Israel's relations with the United States, Europe, and the Arab world. In a January visit to the U.S., Netanyahu further strained his uneasy personal ties with Clinton by meeting with two of the president's most vehement critics, "moral majority" leaders Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The extent to which the U.S. administration had become more receptive to Palestinian concerns during the long deadlock was underscored by President Clinton's unprecedented visit to Gaza in December.

      Strains in Israel's relations with Europe came to the fore when British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, representing the U.K. presidency of the European Union, visited the controversial Har Homa construction site in Jerusalem on March 17, and, contrary to a previous agreement with the Israelis, shook hands with a Palestinian leader there. It was the start of construction work on the site by the Israelis a year earlier that had led to the collapse of the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and the ensuing stalemate.

      To improve ties with the Arab world and counter domestic criticism of rising casualties in Israel's self-declared security zone in southern Lebanon, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai launched an initiative in January for an Israeli pullback. It was based on UN Resolution 425, which called for Israeli withdrawal and Lebanese military control of the evacuated areas. Mordechai declared that Israel would withdraw if the Lebanese army guaranteed security in the south. His offer was rejected by the Lebanese, who insisted that the resolution called for Israeli withdrawal with no strings attached. Mediation efforts by France and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan failed.

      Despite the strains on ties with other nations in the region, Israel's strategic relationship with Turkey strengthened. In early January U.S., Turkish, and Israeli naval forces took part in "Operation Reliant Mermaid," a joint search-and-rescue operation off the Mediterranean coast. Israeli and Turkish military industries tightened cooperation on a wide range of issues, and Israel won a contract to upgrade 48 Turkish F-5 fighter planes at a cost of $75 million.

      Israel won another foreign-policy success in August with its rescue mission to Nairobi after a terrorist bombing of the American embassy there. In a highly publicized five-day operation, the Israeli team rescued three people from under the rubble and located almost 100 bodies.

      On the domestic front the government and the defense establishment suffered a number of setbacks. On February 24 Danny Yatom, the head of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, resigned after a series of organizational blunders. Although a "clarification committee" on the abortive assassination attempt five months earlier by Mossad agents on Hamas official Khaled Mish'al in Amman, Jordan, cleared the prime minister, it was sharply critical of Yatom. Revelation of another bungled operation in Switzerland only days after the committee's report was published forced Yatom's hand. He was replaced by Ephraim Halevy, who had played a leading role in peacemaking with Jordan, and his appointment gave a much-needed boost to Israel-Jordan ties, badly hurt by the Mish'al affair.

      On March 4 Pres. Ezer Weizman, supported by the opposition Labor Party, was reelected, defeating the prime minister's candidate, Shaul Amor in the Knesset 63-49. Tensions between Weizman and Netanyahu were exacerbated as the outspoken president criticized the prime minister's failure to take the peace process forward.

      In May Israel marked the 50th anniversary of its founding, but the jubilee celebrations failed to rouse public enthusiasm. Organizers were criticized for not giving adequate weight to the labour movement's contribution. There was further controversy when a modern dance sequence was dropped from the main gala event because of opposition from orthodox Jews. The incident triggered bitter recrimination between secular and orthodox Israelis.

      Late in the year the Israeli economy showed signs of stress. A sharp devaluation of the shekel against the dollar in October forced inflation up from an annual rate of about 4% to an estimated 9%. Other economic indicators pointed to a deepening slowdown—growth in the third quarter was 1.4%, the lowest in a decade; investments were down by 21.7%; and exports were down by 18.8%. The most worrying statistic for the government was an unemployment figure of more than 9%.

      The Emerging Palestinian Autonomous Areas (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)

      Total area: West Bank 5,900 sq km (2,270 sq mi), of which about 180 sq km is under Palestinian administration, about 4,130 sq km under Israeli administration, and about 1,590 sq km under joint administration; Gaza Strip 363 sq km (140 sq mi), of which about 236 sq km is under Palestinian administration and about 127 sq km under Israeli administration

      Population (1998 est.): West Bank 1,881,000, including 1,734,000 Arabs and 147,000 Jews; Gaza Strip 1,082,000, including 1,076,000 Arabs and 6,000 Jews

      Principal administrative centres: Ram Allah and Gaza

      Head of government: President Yasir Arafat


▪ 1998

      Area: 20,320 sq km (7,846 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war

      Population (1997 est.): 5,652,000

      Capital: Jerusalem is the proclaimed capital of Israel (since Jan. 23, 1950) and the actual seat of government, but recognition has generally been withheld by the international community.

      Chief of state: President Ezer Weizman

      Head of government: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

      The year 1997 began with a major agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. After months of procrastination, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally agreed on January 15 to withdraw Israeli troops from most of the West Bank town of Hebron. The pullback marked the completion of a key phase in the Oslo peace process—the handover by Israel of seven major West Bank towns to Palestinian rule.

      The move was hailed as a historic watershed. Netanyahu, who in opposition had led a vehement campaign against the Oslo accords, now seemed to recognize their necessity. He agreed to additional Israeli pullbacks from the West Bank, and there were hopes that he would have the authority to reconcile most of the disaffected right-wing Israelis to the peacemaking process with the Palestinians.

      Within weeks, however. Netanyahu, under right-wing pressure from within his government coalition, announced his intention to build a new Jewish settlement in the East Jerusalem site Har Homa (known as Jabal Abu Ghneim to Palestinians) on land claimed by the Palestinians. The decision sparked Palestinian protests and accusations of bad faith. Palestinian mistrust of Israeli motives was compounded on March 7 when the Israeli government announced that in the first phase of further withdrawal from the West Bank, Israel would hand over only 2% of "area C," land controlled exclusively by Israel, and 7% of "area B," land controlled jointly, to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Palestinians, who had expected some 30%, spurned the Israeli offer, and the peace process faltered. It broke down completely when a terrorist bomb ripped through the Apropos Cafe in Tel Aviv on March 21, killing three young women. Although the suicide bomber was a member of the Hamas fundamentalists, who were opposed to accommodation with Israel, Netanyahu accused Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir ˋArafat of giving a "green light" to terrorism. Mutual recrimination and growing mistrust led to a breakdown in security cooperation.

      To revive the peace process, Netanyahu postponed deadlocked interim negotiations and proposed moving directly to "final status" talks on the key issues of borders, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem. His final status proposals, however, fell far short of minimal Palestinian aspirations. Although never precisely articulated, his plan offered the Palestinians about 50% of the West Bank, in five separate areas cut off from each other by "strategic roads" that would remain under Israeli control.

      On July 30 two more suicide bombers blew themselves up in the Mahane Yehuda fruit and vegetable market in Jerusalem, killing 16 people. Netanyahu declared that there would be no further land transfers to the Palestinians until the terrorism stopped, a statement seen by some as signaling the end of the Oslo process. The situation deteriorated further when at least four more Israelis were killed in a triple suicide bombing in Jerusalem at the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall on September 4.

      Netanyahu responded to the terror by closing off Palestinian areas and holding back some $40 million in Palestinian tax payments, measures that exacerbated economic hardship and drew widespread international condemnation. The Egyptians, Europeans, and Americans spearheaded mediation efforts to break the deadlock. The American plan was based on a simple formula: the Palestinians needed to show determination in word and deed to crack down on terror, and the Israelis had to refrain from further unilateral actions like the construction at Har Homa.

      In September, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (see BIOGRAPHIES (Albright, Madeleine )) visited Israel and urged Netanyahu to accept a "time-out" on settlement activity for the duration of peace negotiations. The Israelis insisted that both the scope and the duration of the time-out be more closely defined. In early November, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levi met Palestinian deputy leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Washington, D.C., but failed to establish a basis for final status talks. Meanwhile, in December Netanyahu said that the West Bank up to the Jordan River would always belong to Israel.

      As the peace process with the Palestinians floundered, relations between Israel and other Arab countries suffered, including those with its closest peace partner, Jordan. After the decision to build at Har Homa, Jordan's King Hussein wrote an angry letter to Netanyahu accusing him of endangering regional stability. A few days later, on March 13, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting a border tourist site, killing seven. Hussein, showing both compassion and courage, visited the bereaved families in Israel, a gesture that did much to restore confidence in the resilience of the Israel-Jordan peace.

      The close strategic relations between the two countries frayed in late September, however, after Israeli Mossad intelligence agents tried to kill a fundamentalist Hamas leader on Jordanian soil. Hussein, who only weeks before had been host to Mossad Chief Dani Yatom, felt betrayed. It was, he said, as if a guest he had invited into his home had raped his daughter. To assuage the king's wrath, Netanyahu was forced to release the jailed Hamas spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, whom Hussein had hoped to use as a lever to boost his influence on the West Bank. The key questions, though, were whether the ailing 61-year-old Yassin, after eight years in Israeli imprisonment, retained his influence over the militant wing of Hamas and, if he did, whether he would use it to curb or promote terror.

      Relations between Israel and Egypt, the other Arab country with which Israel had a formal peace treaty, also soured in the wake of the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock and sank to their lowest ebb in years when an Israeli businessman, ˋAzzam ˋAzzam, was sentenced in Cairo on August 31 to 15 years on charges of spying for Israel. Israeli government and opposition leaders assured the Egyptians of ˋAzzam's innocence, but Egyptian Pres. Hosni Mubarak refused to intervene on ˋAzzam's behalf, arguing that Netanyahu had made this impossible by criticizing the Egyptian legal system.

      The most volatile of Israel's borders remained that with Lebanon. Fighting between Israel and the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah troops in southern Lebanon took a heavy toll. In a helicopter crash in February, 73 Israeli military personnel were killed on their way to Israel's self-declared security zone. In September, 12 more Israeli soldiers died in an abortive naval commando raid near Sidon, and calls for a unilateral Israeli pullback from Lebanon mounted. On November 9 former deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin, of the Labor Party, placed himself at the head of a popular movement for withdrawal. In response, Maj. Gen. Antoine Lahad, commander of the Israeli-backed South Lebanese Army (SLA), warned that if Israel abandoned him and his men, they might join the Hezbollah. Israeli spokesmen insisted that a unilateral pullback would put Israeli towns and villages at risk. They argued that a withdrawal was possible only in the context of a wider peace deal with Syria, the one power in the area that could control the Hezbollah. Peace talks between Israel and Syria remained frozen, however, as Netanyahu refused to continue the negotiations begun by the previous Labor government.

      As he seemed to stumble from one controversy to the next, Netanyahu's standing as prime minister was seriously compromised. His appointment in January of Roni Bar-On, a Likud Party functionary, as attorney general sparked a police inquiry. After an investigation that lasted nearly three months, during which the prime minister was interrogated, Elyakim Rubinstein, the new attorney general, decided not to press charges against him.

      At one time during the year, it seemed as if his government might fall over the question of religious conversions to Judaism, after Conservative and Reform Jews petitioned the Supreme Court, challenging the monopoly of the Orthodox Jews on this practice. The Orthodox parties demanded that Netanyahu push through legislation that would enshrine their position on this issue and threatened to bring his government down if he did not do so. Netanyahu's secular coalition partners threatened to bring the government down if he did.

      American Jews, most of them Conservative or Reform, warned of a schism if the proposed legislation was enacted and threatened to reduce their fund-raising for Israel in that event. Netanyahu set up a committee to work out a compromise, and when its proposals were rejected by the Orthodox in October, all sides agreed to allow an additional three months for devising a solution.

      On June 3 the Labor Party elected former army chief of staff Ehud Barak to become its new leader. In a bid to break the mold of Israeli politics, he apologized to the Jews who had moved to Israel in large waves during the late 1940s and early '50s from Arab countries, many of whom supported the Likud Party, for any slights they may have received at the hands of the Labor movement.

      The year was not a good one for the Israeli economy. Growth was down to 2.1% after a 4% rise in 1996. Another concern was the rise in unemployment, up from 6.7% to about 8%. There were some positive signs, however. Inflation declined from 10% to about 8%, and foreign currency reserves rose to a staggering $19 billion as abnormally high interest rates and an intensive privatization campaign attracted foreign investors.


▪ 1997

      A republic of southwestern Asia, Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 20,320 sq km (7,846 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war. Pop. (1996 est.): 5,481,000. Cap.: Jerusalem (but see Israel table in World Data section). Monetary unit: New (Israeli) sheqel, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 3.19 sheqalim to U.S. $1 (5.03 sheqalim = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Ezer Weizman; prime ministers, Shimon Peres (acting) and, from June 18, Benjamin Netanyahu.

      In 1996 Israel experienced a change of government and a change of policy that threatened to unhinge the already shaky Middle East peace process. Elected prime minister in late May, the right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu (see BIOGRAPHIES (Netanyahu, Benjamin )) insisted on renegotiating an agreement for the redeployment of Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Hebron, lifted the freeze on building by Jewish settlers, and declared that his government was no longer bound by the principle of "land for peace" that had been a basis of Middle East peacemaking. Netanyahu's new policies exacerbated relations with the Palestinians, but at the year's end it appeared that he had reached an agreement with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from most of Hebron.

      In their first democratic elections, over 750,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza voted on January 20 to elect an 88-member Legislative Council and a president. The outcome was an overwhelming victory for Arafat, who was elected president with 88.1% of the popular vote and whose Fatah supporters won more than 60 seats on the Council. His close confidant, Ahmed Qurie (Abu Ala), one of the main Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo peace deal with Israel, was elected speaker.

      Almost immediately after the election, things started to go wrong for the Palestinians, the peace process, and the incumbent Labor Party government in Israel. In early January Israeli agents had assassinated Yahya Ayyash, the fundamentalist Palestinian leader known as "the engineer" for his bomb-making expertise. Retaliation by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad fundamentalists was devastating. A spate of suicide bombings in late February and early March left more than 50 Israelis dead and led many to question the rationale behind the peacemaking with the Palestinians. Overnight, Netanyahu gained some 20% in the race against acting prime minister Shimon Peres.

      In the wake of the bombings, Israel launched a determined crackdown against the fundamentalists, sealing off the Palestinian areas from Israel proper and imposing an internal closure on 465 Palestinian communities as Israeli security forces conducted house-to-house searches. Warned by the Israelis that continued violence could subvert the entire peace process, Arafat also clamped down on the fundamentalists.

      Israel, Egypt, and the U.S. took the lead in coordinating international efforts to curb the terror and save the peace process. On March 13 an international antiterrorism conference, held at the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, was attended by world leaders, including 14 Arab delegations, who lined up in unprecedented solidarity with Israel and against terrorism. Of the Arab states invited, only Syria and Lebanon stayed away. U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton went on to Israel and pledged a $100 million antiterrorist package, including new state-of-the-art explosive detectors.

      Many observers saw the conference and the Clinton visit as thinly veiled attempts to boost Peres's reelection prospects. The impact of the bombings and a lacklustre campaign by Labor paved the way for a stunning upset at the polls on May 29. On election day, blanket support for Netanyahu from religious Jews opposed to Labor's perceived secularism and Peres's perceived readiness to contemplate a Palestinian state that would include part of the "Holy Land" of Israel finally turned the tables, and in Israel's first-ever direct election of the prime minister, Netanyahu edged Peres by less than 1% of the popular vote.

      The fierce ideological debates and growing fragmentation of Israeli society highlighted in November 1995 by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, were reflected in the strong election showing by small ideological and ethnic parties in the new 120-member Knesset (parliament). (For detailed election results, see Political Parties, above.)

      Netanyahu's central election slogan had been "peace with security," with the emphasis on security. The consternation his promise of a tougher line caused on the Palestinian side was compounded by his initial refusal to meet Arafat face to face and by the severe economic hardship caused by the ongoing internal closure, which had prevented thousands of Palestinians from going to their jobs in Israel.

 When in late September Netanyahu unilaterally opened the entrance to a 2,000-year-old tunnel that passed near the al-Aqsa Mosque and led to a Muslim quarter in East Jerusalem, the simmering unrest erupted into full-scale violence. In the ultimate malfunction of the Oslo process, Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers, who only days before had been conducting joint patrols, fired at each other. Fifteen soldiers and more than 60 Palestinians died before calm was restored.

      To stop the process from breaking down altogether, Clinton summoned Netanyahu, Arafat, and Jordan's King Hussein to Washington. At the early October summit, Netanyahu warmly shook Arafat's hand and reaffirmed Israel's commitment to the peace process.

      The government acted against Jewish extremists it believed were planning to provoke the Palestinians or to assassinate leading members of the right-wing government they had helped to elect and whom they were now accusing of betrayal. On March 27 Yigal Amir, the right-wing religious zealot who had gunned down Rabin, had been sentenced to life imprisonment for the assassination and an additional six years for wounding one of Rabin's bodyguards.

      Relations between Israel and Syria deteriorated rapidly after the Netanyahu victory, and there was tension with Jordan and Egypt. Less than a week after Netanyahu established his new right-wing government in mid-June, the Arabs held an emergency summit in Cairo and demanded reaffirmation of the principle of "land for peace."

      In late August Syrian troop movements in Lebanon caused alarm in Israel, and by October Israeli intelligence officials were, for the first time in years, speaking openly of the possibility of war. Despite a general mood of budgetary austerity, the army demanded and got special allocations to meet the new threat.

      The year in regard to relations with Syria had begun very differently, with Peres pushing hard for an early peace deal. He had become prime minister in the wake of the Rabin assassination, and, although urged by close advisers to call an immediate election, he hoped first to consolidate his leadership position through a major breakthrough with Syria. In February, when Syrian Pres. Hafez al-Assad indicated he would meet the Israeli leader only after a peace deal had been struck, Peres called an early election for May.

      In early April Syrian and Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters fired Katyusha rockets at Israeli border towns and villages. Accused of weakness in fighting terror (and in the midst of a tough election campaign), Peres responded by unleashing a major military action. For 17 days Israeli air force and artillery units pounded Hezbollah positions and Lebanese strategic installations. There was an international outcry when Israeli gunners inadvertently hit a UN post at Qana, Leb., killing some 100 Shi'ite refugees who had taken shelter there.

      After nearly three weeks of fighting, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher brokered a new cease-fire agreement, which prohibited attacks on civilians as well as strikes across the border into Israel. It differed only marginally from the agreement brokered by the U.S. after Israel's almost identical operation in July 1993 and did not put a stop to the low-level ongoing fighting in southern Lebanon.

      Major developments in Israeli relations with Turkey in 1996 also affected Israeli-Syrian relations. In February Israel and Turkey concluded a secret agreement on military cooperation, which included Israeli air force training flights over Turkish territory close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders. In March Turkish Pres. Suleyman Demirel underlined the burgeoning relationship by visiting Israel. Syrian fears were largely allayed when the veteran Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan (see BIOGRAPHIES (Erbakan, Necmettin )) took over as prime minister of Turkey in late June and put ties with Israel on the back burner.

      The slowdown in the peace process had an adverse effect on foreign investment. It was mostly the economy's structural problems, however, that led to a dramatic drop in economic growth, down from 7% in 1995 to 4%, with the 1997 forecast only 2%. Netanyahu's panacea was privatization, but he was slow in getting it started. He also faced strong internal opposition to plans for essential budget cuts. Inflation was held in check at about 10% by soaring interest rates, which kept the sheqel artificially high against the dollar and hurt exports, which grew by under 4%, compared with 8.5% in 1995.

      In 1996 the influx of foreign workers into Israel to take over jobs from Palestinians prevented from working by the closures took on mammoth proportions. By the year's end, estimates ranged from 200,000 to 250,000 such workers, over half of whom were in the country illegally. Government efforts to expel them were ineffectual, and a major social problem loomed.


▪ 1996

      A republic of southwestern Asia, Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 20,400 sq km (7,876 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war. Pop. (1995 est.): 5,385,000. Cap.: Jerusalem (but see Israel table in World Data section). Monetary unit: New (Israeli) sheqel, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 3.01 sheqalim to U.S. $1 (4.76 sheqalim = £1 sterling). President in 1995, Ezer Weizman; prime ministers, Yitzhak Rabin and, from November 4 (acting), Shimon Peres.

      The year 1995 saw great strides in peacemaking overshadowed by the most radical act of political violence in Israel's history. The assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (see OBITUARIES (Rabin, Yitzhak )) by a Jewish religious fanatic on November 4 shocked the nation to the core and made a mockery of the widely believed axiom that a Jew would never kill another Jew over politics. The confessed assassin, 25-year-old Yigal Amir, shot the prime minister as he walked to his car after a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Amir said his motive was to destroy a peace process that violated religious law. Extremist rabbis had reportedly ruled that the prime minister deserved to die because the Israeli-Palestinian accords entailed giving up parts of the sacred land of Israel and allegedly put Jewish lives at risk. Within days a state commission of inquiry was set up to look into the security lapse that enabled the killer to get within centimetres of his target. Several leading members of Israel's much-vaunted General Security Service, the Shin Bet, resigned.

      The assassination followed months of religious and right-wing incitement against Rabin and his peace policies and reflected a deep divide within Israeli society. The immediate effect was a closing of ranks and a moderation of the tone of political debate. Tensions persisted, however, as the left accused the right of having helped create a climate of violence and the right charged that the left was using the assassination for political gain.

      The assassination was followed by a spontaneous outpouring of grief as over a million Israelis filed past the slain prime minister's coffin. The funeral was attended by world leaders from over 80 countries, including Pres. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, and representatives from four other Arab states. For days tens of thousands of young Israelis gathered at the graveside, outside the family home, and in the square where the prime minister was killed, lighting candles in his memory and singing peace songs.

      Rabin's partner in peacemaking, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, took over as acting prime minister and pledged to do all he could to accelerate the peace process. Differences of emphasis and style quickly emerged, most importantly in the negotiations with Syria. Where Rabin had insisted on focusing on security arrangements for the strategic Golan Heights after an Israeli withdrawal, Peres proposed tackling all outstanding problems simultaneously.

      The security focus had spawned a Washington meeting on June 27-29 between the Israeli and Syrian army chiefs of staff, which ended in deadlock over Israel's insistence on a land-based early warning system on the Golan. Syrian Pres. Hafez al-Assad refused to renew the talks until Israel withdrew its demand.

      The assassination changed fundamental attitudes and seemed to convince the Syrians of the genuineness of Israel's peacemaking overtures. Peres proposed a "grand peace" based on Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights in return for full normalization of relations with Syria and the rest of the Arab world. On December 11 Peres spelled out his new ideas at a summit with U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton. After receiving a positive response from Assad, Clinton pledged intensified U.S. involvement in the peacemaking process.

      The major breakthrough in 1995 was with the Palestinians. On September 28, two years and two weeks after their historic handshake on the White House lawn, Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat signed an agreement to extend Palestinian self-rule from the Gaza Strip and Jericho to the rest of the West Bank.

      This second interim agreement provided for Israeli withdrawal from seven West Bank towns, prepared the way for Palestinian elections, and set in motion the machinery for ending Israel's 28-year-long military occupation. Negotiations were extremely complex because of the need to guarantee the security of roughly 140,000 Jewish settlers in the areas being handed over to Palestinian control. The solution was to divide the territory into three categories—towns under Palestinian control, villages under joint control, and Jewish settlements and all other territory under Israeli control—and to build a system of roads enabling Jewish settlers to bypass major Palestinian population centres.

      The accord took well over a year to negotiate and was finalized only on September 24 after an intensive weeklong session between Peres and Arafat at Taba, Egypt. On October 6 the Israeli Knesset (parliament) approved the agreement 61-59. Implementation began almost immediately with the handover of the civil administration building in Salfit and the release of about 900 Palestinian prisoners on October 10. In November the Israeli army withdrew from Janin and then in December from Tulkarm, Nabulus, Qalqilyah, Ram Allah, and Bethlehem. Hebron was due to be evacuated in March 1996.

      The interim agreement was made possible by the deferment of negotiations on the sensitive issues of final borders, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements, and Jerusalem. "Final status" talks were scheduled to begin in May 1996.

      On April 27 the Israeli government approved the expropriation of about 53 ha (130 ac) of mainly Arab land in Jerusalem. The Palestinians complained to the Arab League and the UN, where the U.S. found itself having to veto a Security Council resolution against Israel. On May 22, its survival threatened by a no-confidence motion introduced by two mainly Arab left-wing parties and somewhat idiosyncratically supported by the right-wing opposition, the Israeli government suspended its expropriation plans.

      In October the U.S. Congress endorsed Israel's position on Jerusalem as its capital and passed a bill obligating the administration to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 1999, the target date for completion of final status negotiations with the Palestinians.

      In 1995 Israel and Jordan built on the peace treaty they had signed the previous October. Over 80,000 Israeli tourists visited Jordan, and significant steps were taken to solve the common water shortage. On June 5 King Hussein, Rabin, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl met on the border at Naharayim, Israel, to expedite plans for dams, desalination plants, and new water pipelines the Germans had agreed to help finance. In December, after a Peres-Hussein summit in Amman, Jordan, it was announced that Israel would upgrade Jordanian frontline F-16 fighter planes.

      As Israel and Jordan moved closer, Israel and Egypt embarked on a subtle competition for regional hegemony, clashing over the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), due for renewal in April. Mubarak persistently criticized Israel's undeclared and unmonitored nuclear potential and threatened to block ratification of the NPT unless Israel signed. Israel argued it would do so only after reaching bilateral agreements on nuclear arms limitation with all Middle Eastern countries. Under intense U.S. pressure, the Egyptians backed down, and the treaty was renewed for an indefinite period without Israel's signing.

      Israel demonstrated further military potential when it launched its first spy satellite, Ofek 3, on April 5. Apart from the contribution to intelligence gathering, the launch indicated a high level of ground-to-ground missile technology. In a dramatic accentuation of shifting regional and global relations, Israel and Russia established low-level military ties. December saw the first visit to Israel by a Russian defense minister and the signing of a military memorandum of understanding.

      Throughout the year military clashes between Israeli forces and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah Islamic fundamentalists in southern Lebanon were an almost daily occurrence. On several occasions the Hezbollah responded to Israeli military pressure by firing rockets at civilians across the border in northern Israel. An attack in late November stopped abruptly after the U.S. urged Syria to rein the Hezbollah in, which indicated that in the context of a peace agreement with Syria and Lebanon, the Syrians would be able to guarantee quiet on Israel's northern border.

      Inside Israel and the occupied territories, the fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept up a campaign of terror designed to torpedo the peace process with the Palestinians. Suicide bombings at Bayt Lid in January, Kefar Darom and Netzarim in April, Ramat Gan in July, and Jerusalem in August claimed 40 lives and fueled Israeli opposition arguments and demonstrations.

      To stop would-be bombers, Rabin imposed periodic closures on Gaza and the West Bank, denying thousands of Palestinian workers access to their jobs in Israel. But where previously the Palestinians had tended to blame Israel for the economic hardship caused by the closures, they began to blame the bombers, and the radicals lost ground. The Islamic Jihad suffered a further setback when its Damascus-based leader, Fathi Shiqaqi, was assassinated in Malta on October 26.

      The peace process and the continuing immigration from Russia and the former Soviet republics had a major impact on the economy, which grew for a second successive year by nearly 7%. Business production was up by 8%, personal spending rose by 4%, and inflation was down from 14.5% to about 8.5%. The major economic problem the country faced was a spiraling trade deficit, up to $10 billion and nearly double the figure four years earlier. Most of that deficit was in trade with Europe, expected to grow both ways after Israel became an associate member of the European Union in mid-November. In June the government allocated $560 million for a new terminal at Ben-Gurion International Airport. The construction was part of a $1.9 billion package for developing trade infrastructure and transforming Israel into a major axis for regional trade and transportation.

      In late October Israel and nearly all the other Middle Eastern countries convened in Amman for a follow-up to the 1994 economic conference in Casablanca, Morocco. It was decided to set up a Middle East investment bank in Cairo, and Israel concluded a major natural gas deal with Qatar. (LESLIE D. SUSSER)

▪ 1995

      A republic of southwestern Asia, Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 20,700 sq km (7,992 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war. Pop. (1994 est.): 5,331,000. Cap.: Jerusalem (but see Israel table in World Data section). Monetary unit: New (Israeli) sheqel, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 3.01 sheqalim to U.S. $1 (4.79 sheqalim = £1 sterling). President in 1994, Ezer Weizman; prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

      If 1993 was characterized by a general euphoria after the historic breakthrough with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in September, 1994 saw Israelis in a more sober mood. Important steps were taken during the year toward consolidation of the peace accords with the Palestinians, and a full peace treaty with Jordan was signed. The Syrian peace track remained deadlocked, however, and the immensity of the task of forging a stable peace with the Palestinians became clearer.

      On February 25 a Jewish extremist almost shattered the brittle process of reconciliation. Dressed as an Israeli army officer, Baruch Goldstein, a U.S.-born doctor, gunned down at least 29 Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Several more people, including Goldstein, died in the ensuing riot. There was an outcry in the Arab world, and the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon broke off peace talks with Israel. In response, the Israeli government set up a judicial commission of inquiry, banned the militant anti-Arab Kach and Kahana Hai groups, which had hailed Goldstein's action, and agreed to a "temporary international presence in Hebron" to monitor Palestinian-settler relations.

      Within a month of the massacre, talks with the Palestinians restarted, and by the end of April a detailed agreement for Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho had been hammered out. Negotiations on the implementation of the "Gaza and Jericho first" peace deal, which were to have lasted two months, had dragged on for nearly seven months, exacerbating mutual suspicions. These came to the fore in embarrassingly public fashion when, at the signing ceremony in Cairo on May 4, PLO leader Yasir Arafat refused for several minutes to sign one of the maps because of a lingering dispute regarding the size of the Jericho area.

      On May 17, 27 years of Israeli occupation in Gaza and Jericho came to an end. Palestinian flags were hoisted as the departing Israelis handed over all 38 civil administration departments and 9,000 armed Palestinian police moved in to take over internal security. The Israeli army redeployed around Jewish settlements in the Gaza and Jericho areas. Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers began joint patrols.

      On July 1, after dismantling his PLO headquarters in Tunis, Arafat made a triumphal entry into Gaza, but he faced huge problems. He had to create new institutions from scratch and contend with widespread poverty. Although Western donor nations had promised $2.2 billion, they made transfer of funds dependent on the establishment of new accounting procedures. Arafat consequently was unable to do much to transform the quality of everyday life. The fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad spurred Palestinian opposition to the peace process and launched a campaign of terror against Israel. In the worst incident 22 people died when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a Tel Aviv bus on October 19.

      Tensions between Arafat and his fundamentalist opponents came to a head in mid-November when Palestinian police shot dead 13 Hamas and Islamic Jihad demonstrators in Gaza. Israeli Arabs intervened to negotiate an uneasy truce. In what they called "early empowerment," the Israelis transferred to Palestinian control five areas of government—education, health, welfare, tourism, and tax collection. Palestinians wanted free elections and insisted that Israel withdraw from their population centres. For the Israelis the unresolved conundrum was how to redeploy troops while continuing to protect over 140 scattered Jewish settlements. In December it was revealed that Israeli authorities planned to build new highways in the West Bank, linking settlements. The year ended with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators deadlocked over how to extend Palestinian self-rule from Gaza and Jericho to the rest of the West Bank.

      In October Arafat, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were announced as the winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace. (See Nobel Prizes .) Although much still remained to be done, the three men were honoured for having laid the cornerstone on which a comprehensive Middle East peace could be built.

      Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian accommodation had led directly to a peace treaty with Jordan. On Sept. 14, 1993, the day after the historic Rabin-Arafat handshake that concluded the signing of the peace accords, the Jordanian government initialed a peace agenda with Israel they had been holding up for almost a year. It was not only a case of the Israeli-Palestinian accord legitimizing peacemaking with the Jewish state by other Arab parties. The Jordanians were also driven by a fear that if they were left out of the peace process, they could face the threat of rampant Palestinian nationalism spilling over onto the East Bank and destabilizing Jordan.

      A series of secret meetings between Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein paved the way for the Israeli-Jordanian accord. In Washington, D.C., on July 25, they were able to announce an end to the state of belligerency, and in the Arava desert on October 26, with U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton as witness, they signed the full peace treaty.

      For Jordan the economic benefits were immediate. The U.S. waived about $700 million in foreign debt, while the U.K. forgave $92 million. In the longer term, Israel and Jordan planned major joint development. For Israel the importance of the peace deal was primarily strategic. It virtually spelled the end of the Israeli military planners' nightmare Cerberus of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, racing across Jordanian territory to strike at Israel's narrow coastal plain.

      Accommodation with Jordan further opened the way for Israel's integration into the Arab Middle East. On September 1 Morocco announced its readiness to establish diplomatic links with the Jewish state. In October Tunisia followed suit, and in December, after a lightning visit by Rabin to Muscat, Oman seemed next in line. On September 30 all six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council had lifted the secondary and tertiary elements of the Arab boycott of Israel. This meant that major companies throughout the world could trade with Israel without fear of Arab economic reprisal. From October 30 Morocco served as host to a three-day Middle East economic conference, the first to include Israeli participation.

      Israel's diplomatic successes in 1994 went beyond the Middle East and included the establishment of full ties with Vatican City State on June 15. Israel's ambassador began work in the Vatican at the end of September. By year's end Israel had diplomatic relations with more than 130 countries, nearly half of which had renewed or established ties during the three years of Israeli-Arab peace talks.

      The major disappointment of 1994 was the failure to make tangible progress in peace negotiations with Syria. Almost daily clashes between Israeli forces and the Syrian-backed Shi'ite fundamentalist Hezbollah in southern Lebanon took a heavy toll. On June 2 Israel bombed a Hezbollah training camp, killing about 40 guerrillas. In retaliation, fundamentalists blew up the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Arg., on July 18, leaving 96 civilians dead. A week later they attacked the Israeli embassy and Zionist offices in London. In December, when the Israeli and Syrian chiefs of staff began discussing a new security regime to be established after Israeli withdrawal from the strategic Golan Heights, Israel insisted that containing the Hezbollah be part of any peace package.

      The overall peacemaking climate helped to produce an economic boom as Israel led the industrialized world in 1994 with a growth rate of nearly 7%. Private consumption was up by 9.3%; exports topped the $24 billion mark; investments climbed by nearly 20%; and unemployment was slashed from 11% to 7.6%, despite the arrival of some 80,000 job-seeking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. On the down side, public-sector wages increased by 8.7%, inflation was running at about 15%, the balance of payments deficit increased by $3.1 billion, and the Tel Aviv stock market was down by close to 40%.

      Ironically, the Rabin government ended the year looking extremely vulnerable. It was based on a minority coalition of 58 in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), with support from three communist members and two representatives from the Arab Democratic Party. At year's end Rabin was still seeking to reestablish a majority coalition by bringing back the ultraorthodox Shas Party.

      The greatest threat to Rabin's government was the anarchy in his ruling Labor party (44 seats). In 1992 Labor had introduced a system of national primaries to select its Knesset candidates. No longer dependent on party bosses for their seats, Knesset members in 1994 regularly defied the party leadership as they vied to catch the public eye.

      In February, Health Minister Haim Ramon was first off the block. He resigned over the Histadrut trade union federation's opposition to his national health bill and set up a breakaway list to challenge Labor in the May 10 Histadrut elections. He polled 47% to Labor's 33%, bringing to an end the party's almost 75-year-long domination of the giant trade union organization. The charismatic Ramon's victory was seen as part of a new personality-oriented politics in which party machines were losing much of their weight. The health bill over which Ramon had resigned was then passed in precisely the form he had submitted it.

      Constitutional reform, however, foundered in 1994 as secular and religious parties clashed over the role of the Supreme Court. The court had ruled on a wide range of issues, from the right to import nonkosher meat to the legality of coalition agreements. Religious parties, wary of how court involvement on fundamental issues might affect the "religious status quo," balked at the idea of a secular Bill of Rights with a secular Supreme Court formally accorded powers of legal review. (LESLIE D. SUSSER)

▪ 1994

      A republic of southwestern Asia, Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Area: 20,700 sq km (7,992 sq mi), not including territory occupied in the June 1967 war. Pop. (1993 est.): 5,451,000. Cap.: Jerusalem (but see Israel table in World Data section). Monetary unit: New (Israeli) sheqel, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 2.84 sheqalim to U.S. $1 (4.30 sheqalim = £1 sterling). Presidents in 1993, Chaim Herzog and, from March 24, Ezer Weizman; prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

      Soon after his Labour-dominated coalition won power in the summer of 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin embarked on a mission to redraw the political map of the Middle East; his plan assumed an altogether new dimension in 1993 when he finalized historic accords with Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat on September 13 in Washington, D.C.

      Barely six months after assuming office, Rabin had established his political authority in a manner the country had not witnessed since the golden days of its first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, some 45 years earlier. With diplomatic patience, political insight, and a deliberate sense of purpose, Rabin subdued hostilities with the Likud and right-wing opposition parties and pacified his quarrelsome religious and left-wing coalition partners. He needed both to maintain his working majority in the Knesset (parliament). Rabin accomplished this feat despite persistent Palestinian and Arab demands for concessions deemed unacceptable by Israel, repeated acts of Palestinian terrorism, and cool relations with both the United Nations and the European Community (EC). Relations with the U.S. remained undefined during the transition of presidential leadership from George Bush to Bill Clinton. However, during a March 15 meeting in Washington, D.C., between Clinton and Rabin, the basis for renewed cordial relations was established.

      Although many secret meetings with Arab leaders had taken place over the years, usually through the mediation of third parties, there had been no such rapprochement at any time with the Palestinians. Further, none of these meetings had produced tangible results. The stalemate continued into 1993 despite the ongoing "peace process" talks that were launched in October 1991 in Madrid and moved to Washington.

      A number of seemingly unrelated developments, however, introduced a new dimension into Israeli policy making. It had become evident to Rabin by late February 1993 that no real progress was being made in Washington with the Syrians and the Palestinians. Virtual agreement had been reached with Jordan, but King Hussein was not prepared to settle with Israel until parallel agreements had been made with Syria and the Palestinians.

      In some ways Rabin's unique style accentuated the deadlock. Unlike the former prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, Rabin wanted to talk, negotiate, offer concessions, and make peace with Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinians. The impact on the Arab negotiators was dramatic. They could no longer blame Israel for being inflexible. As a result, they were unsure how to respond. The Syrians became more extreme; the West Bank Palestinian leaders insisted on referring all substantial decisions to Arafat, who presided in Tunis, Tunisia.

      As a result, Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres decided, together with a small number of trusted officials, that it was time to open backdoor negotiations with Arafat. Rabin reasoned that since decisions were being made by Arafat in Tunis and not by the Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem, it made more sense to deal with the source of power. There was another, perhaps more compelling, reason for dealing directly with Arafat. The PLO leader was in dire trouble: he was publicly abused and written off by many of his former friends and supporters; important officials had resigned or withdrawn from his organization; and his administration and PLO institutions were financially bankrupt and could no longer meet their commitments.

      Arafat, never before so vulnerable, looked in vain for help from the Arab states and from his own ranks. Rabin's secret initiative offered him and the Palestinians a lifeline that could save him and the Palestinian cause. The price was peace with Israel. Both Rabin and Arafat understood that the negotiations would have to be both secretly conducted and concluded with the help of a trusted and credible third party. Information would have to be withheld from all except those who had need to know. Washington, Jerusalem, and Cairo, notorious sources of news leaks, would not be informed. The invaluable and discreet third party was Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst and a few hand-picked members of his staff.

      During negotiations total secrecy and strict confidentiality was maintained. Rabin delegated Peres to oversee the Israeli interests, and Arafat nominated one of his veteran political advisers, Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, to take charge for the Palestinians. The meetings were conducted at a country house provided by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, and the staff and facilities were furnished by the foreign minister. Both the U.S. and Israeli governments were unaware of the talks. The Palestinian, Arab, and Israeli delegations, deadlocked in negotiations in Washington, had no inkling either until the first rumours surfaced in the Israeli and Palestinian media following comments by one of Arafat's disgruntled "political advisers," Bassam Abu Sharif, whose advice Arafat had neither sought nor taken.

      For five months, from April to the end of August, Israeli and Arab politicians and diplomats argued in Washington while the Norwegian-sponsored talks were secretly taking place in Oslo. There once-deadly foes—the Israeli and PLO leaders—fashioned a new order in Arab-Israeli relations.

      Rabin's firmness of purpose and Arafat's desperate political need overcame the last-minute threat to the peace talks. The pro-Iranian Hezbollah fundamentalists launched rocket attacks, possibly with Syrian support, against northern Israel with the evident intention of derailing an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Rabin ordered a fearsome retaliation in kind. Some 300,000 southern Lebanese were temporarily displaced and fled north before returning to their villages. The northern front became relatively quiet. Syria's attempt to assert a predominant position on its own terms had been suppressed by Israel's military response. The time had come to announce Israel's secret negotiations with the PLO.

      The existence of the talks was revealed in late August. The climax to those clandestine meetings occurred on September 13. In Washington, with President Clinton as host, Rabin and Arafat met and shook hands. Peres and Abbas signed the Declaration of Principles, which outlined the process and timing of self-rule for the Palestinians. By the end of October, detailed negotiations for the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho agreement and phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank were under way. The discussions for Palestinian autonomy, including the civilian takeover of municipal and policing functions, were held in Taba, Egypt.

      Though the taboo blocking negotiations between the leaders of Israel and the PLO had been broken, acceptance of the Israeli-PLO accords by those in occupied areas and in surrounding regions would take time. After the accords went into effect on October 13, Israel pledged to release more than 10,000 Palestinians still held in Israeli jails. In an opening gesture Israel freed Salim al-Zreii, the longest-held prisoner (23 years). Soon afterward hundreds of others were given their freedom. Later that month Israel eased long-standing travel restrictions, allowing Palestinians in the occupied territories to enter Israel, Jerusalem in particular. In December the last 200 Palestinians exiled to Lebanon in 1992 were allowed to return.

      In November Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem for 28 years, was soundly defeated in elections by hard-liner Ehud Olmert, a member of the opposition Likud. The defeat of Kollek was viewed as a rebuke to Rabin, who had urged the octogenarian to run for office, even though Kollek had planned to retire.

      Tensions heightened in the occupied territories following the signing of the September 13 accords, and three moderate Palestinians were assassinated. The most notable victim, Assad Saftawi, a close associate of Arafat, was murdered by two masked Palestinian gunmen on October 21. Israeli settlers in the occupied areas voiced their displeasure by rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On November 9 Rabin met with three leaders representing the settlers. He promised not to abandon them when Palestinian self-rule took effect.

      The international response to the Israeli-Palestinian accords was dramatic and swift. The U.S. pledged some $2 billion; $400 million was promised by EC donors; and the World Bank vowed to raise $475 million annually for 10 years.

      Efforts to meet the December 13 deadline for implementing the accords were unsuccessful, however. Key issues included Israel's insistence on controlling the borders with Jordan and Egypt and the question of the size of the Jericho area to be under Palestinian control. Talks continued, nonetheless, and progress was reported at the end of the year.

      Earlier in the year the Knesset elected as Israel's seventh president 69-year-old Ezer Weizman, a nephew of Israel's first president and chief of the country's air force during the 1967 Six-Day War. Weizman, a forthright advocate of peace and a supporter of Rabin, had played an important role in making peace with Egypt in 1979.

      In March the Likud elected Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu (see BIOGRAPHIES (Netanyahu, Benjamin )) its new leader. It was a difficult inauguration for the new party head, who vociferously opposed the Israeli-Palestinian accords even though Rabin's initiative had produced a favourable response at home and abroad.

      As the year closed, Israel began to savour the dividends of making peace with the PLO. New areas of the world economy, hitherto closed as a result of the Arab economic boycott, were beginning to open. India led the way, and China followed. On his way home from an official visit to Beijing (Peking), Rabin made an unannounced visit to meet with Indonesian President Suharto in Jakarta. Indonesia boasted the largest Muslim population in the world. Agreements were in the negotiation stages with important European-U.S. multinationals and with several Arab Gulf states. In mid-November Peres announced that a peace agreement with Jordan was close to being initialed. After 45 years Israel had emerged from the economic isolation precipitated by the Arab boycott, and it was the only country to enjoy and benefit from a free-trade agreement with both the EC and the United States. For all practical purposes the Arab boycott, which had done so much damage to Israel, remained little more than a polite fiction by the end of 1993. At the opening of the 1993 General Assembly, for the first time since Israel became a member of the United Nations, no Arab delegation challenged its membership.

      On November 7, some 500 years after the expulsion of Jews from Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia visited Israel as part of a policy of reconciliation. On December 29 the Vatican and Israel announced that they would establish diplomatic relations. (JON KIMCHE)

* * *

officially  State of Israel , Hebrew  Medinat Yisraʾel , Arabic  Isrāʾīl 
Israel, flag of  country in the Middle East, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded to the north by Lebanon, to the northeast by Syria, to the east and southeast by Jordan, to the southwest by Egypt, and to the west by the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem is the capital and the seat of government.

      Israel is a small country with a relatively diverse topography, consisting of a lengthy coastal plain, highlands in the north and central regions, and the Negev desert in the south. Running the length of the country from north to south along its eastern border is the northern terminus of the Great Rift Valley.

      The State of Israel is the only Jewish (Jew) nation in the modern period, and the region that now falls within its borders has a lengthy and rich history that dates from pre-biblical times. The area was a part of the Roman (Roman Republic and Empire) and, later, Byzantine (Byzantine Empire) empires before falling under the control of the fledgling Islamic caliphate in the 7th century CE. Although the object of dispute during the European Crusades, the region, then generally known as Palestine, remained under the sway of successive Islamic dynasties until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, when it was placed under British mandate from the League of Nations.

      Even before the mandate, the desire for a Jewish homeland prompted a small number of Jews to immigrate to Palestine, a migration that grew dramatically during the second quarter of the 20th century with the increased persecution of Jews worldwide and subsequent Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. This vast influx of Jewish immigrants into the region, however, caused tension with the native Palestinian Arabs, and violence flared between the two groups leading up to the United Nations plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian sectors and Israel's ensuing declaration of statehood on May 14, 1948.

      Israel fought a series of wars against neighbouring Arab states during the next 35 years, which have resulted in ongoing disputes over territory and the status of refugees. Despite continuing tensions, however, Israel concluded peace treaties with several neighbouring Arab states during the final quarter of the 20th century.

The land

 Despite its small size, about 290 miles (470 km) north-to-south and 85 miles (135 km) east-to-west at its widest point, Israel has four geographic regions—the Mediterranean coastal plain, the hill regions of northern and central Israel, the Great Rift Valley, and the Negev—and a wide range of unique physical features and microclimates.

      The coastal plain is a narrow strip about 115 miles (185 km) long that widens to about 25 miles (40 km) in the south. A sandy shoreline with many beaches borders the Mediterranean coast. Inland to the east, fertile farmland is giving way to growing agricultural settlements and the cities of Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv–Yafo) and Haifa and their suburbs.

      In the north of the country, the mountains of galilee constitute the highest part of Israel, reaching an elevation of 3,963 feet (1,208 metres) at Mount Meron (Arabic: Jebel Jarmaq). These mountains terminate to the east in an escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley. The mountains of Galilee are separated from the hills of the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the south by the fertile Plain of Esdraelon (Esdraelon, Plain of) (Hebrew: ʿEmeq Yizreʿel), which, running approximately northwest to southeast, connects the coastal plain with the Great Rift Valley. The Mount Carmel (Carmel, Mount) range, which culminates in a peak 1,791 feet (546 metres) high, forms a spur reaching northwest from the highlands of the West Bank, cutting almost to the coast of Haifa.

      The Great Rift Valley (East African Rift System), a long fissure in the Earth's crust, begins beyond the northern frontier of Israel and forms a series of valleys running generally south, the length of the country, to the Gulf of Aqaba (Aqaba, Gulf of). The Jordan River, which marks part of the frontier between Israel and Jordan, flows southward through the rift from Dan on Israel's northern frontier, where it is 500 feet (152 metres) above sea level, first into the Ḥula Valley (ula Valley) (Hebrew: ʿEmeq Ḥula), then into the freshwater Lake Tiberias (Galilee, Sea of), also known as the Sea of Galilee (Galilee, Sea of) (Hebrew: Yam Kinneret), which lies 686 feet (209 metres) below sea level. The Jordan continues south along the eastern edge of the West Bank—now through the Jordan Valley (Hebrew: ʿEmeq HaYarden)—and finally into the highly saline Dead Sea, which, at 1,312 feet (400 metres) below sea level, is the lowest point of a natural landscape feature on the Earth's surface. South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan continues through the rift, where it now forms the ʿArava Valley (Arabah, Wadi Al-ʿ) (Hebrew: “savannah”), an arid plain that extends to the Red Sea port of Elat.

      The sparsely populated Negev comprises the southern half of Israel. Arrow-shaped, this flat, sandy desert region narrows toward the south, where it becomes increasingly arid and breaks into sandstone hills cut by wadis, canyons, and cliffs before finally coming to a point where the ʿArava reaches Elat.

      The principal drainage system comprises Lake Tiberias and the Jordan River. Other rivers in Israel are the Yarqon (Yarqon River), which empties into the Mediterranean near Tel Aviv; the Qishon (Qishon River), which runs through the western part of the Plain of Esdraelon (Esdraelon, Plain of) to drain into the Mediterranean at Haifa; and a small section of the Yarmūk (Yarmūk River), a tributary of the Jordan that flows west along the Syria-Jordan border. Most of the country's remaining streams are ephemeral and flow seasonally as wadis. The rivers are supplemented by a spring-fed underground water table that is tapped by wells. Israel has a chronic water shortage, and its hydraulic resources are fully utilized: about three-fourths for irrigation and the remainder for industrial and household water use.

      The coastal plain is covered mainly by alluvial soils. Parts of the arid northern Negev, where soil development would not be expected, have windblown loess soils because of proximity to the coastal plain. The soils of Galilee change from calcareous rock in the coastal plain, to Cenomanian and Turonian limestone (deposited from 99 to 89 million years ago) in Upper Galilee, and to Eocene formations (those dating from 54.8 to 33.7 million years ago) in the lower part of the region. Rock salt and gypsum are abundant in the Great Rift Valley. The southern Negev is mainly sandstone rock with veins of granite.

      Israel has a wide variety of climatic conditions, caused mainly by the country's diverse topography. There are two distinct seasons: a cool, rainy winter (October–April) and a dry, hot summer (May–September). Along the coast, sea breezes have a moderating influence in summer, and the Mediterranean beaches are popular. Precipitation is light in the south, amounting to about 1 inch (25 mm) per year in the ʿArava Valley south of the Dead Sea, while in the north it is relatively heavy, up to 44 inches (1,120 mm) a year in the Upper Galilee region. In the large cities, along the coastal plain, annual rainfall averages about 20 inches (508 mm) per year. Precipitation occurs on about 60 days during the year, spread over the rainy season. Severe summer water shortages ensue in years when the rains come late or rainfall totals are less than normal.

      Average annual temperatures vary throughout Israel based on elevation and location, with the coastal areas adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea having milder temperatures—ranging from about 84 °F (29 °C) in August to about 61 °F (16 °C) in January—and higher rates of humidity than areas inland, especially during the winter. Likewise, higher elevations, such as Upper Galilee, have cool nights, even in summer, and occasional snows in the winter. However, the coastal city of Elat, in the south, despite its proximity to the Red Sea, is closer to the climate of the Jordan and ʿArava valleys and the Negev, which are hotter and drier than the northern coast; there, daytime temperatures reach about 70 °F (21 °C) in January and may rise as high as 114 °F (46 °C) in August, when the average high is 104 °F (40 °C).

Plant and animal life
      Natural vegetation is highly varied, and more than 2,800 plant species have been identified. The original evergreen forests, the legendary “cedars of Lebanon,” have largely disappeared after many centuries of timber cutting for shipbuilding and to clear land for cultivation and goat herding; they have been replaced by second-growth oak and smaller evergreen conifers. The hills are mostly covered by maquis, and wildflowers bloom profusely in the rainy season. Only wild desert scrub grows in the Negev and on the sand dunes of the coastal plain. North of Beersheba, most of the country is under cultivation or is used for hill grazing. Where irrigation is available, citrus groves, orchards of subtropical fruit, and food crops flourish. Millions of trees have been planted through a government reforestation program.

      Animal life is also diverse. Mammals include wildcats, wild boars, gazelles, ibex, jackals, hyenas, hares, coneys, badgers, and tiger weasels. Notable among the reptiles are geckos and lizards of the genus agama and vipers such as the carpet, or saw-scaled (saw-scaled viper), viper (Echis carinatus). More than 380 species of birds have been identified in the region, including the partridge, tropical cuckoo, bustard, sand grouse, and desert lark. There are many kinds of fish and insects, and locusts from the desert sometimes invade settled areas. Several regions have been set aside as nature reserves, notably parts of the ʿArava in the south and Mount Carmel, Mount Meron, and the remains of the Ḥula Lake and marshes in the north. The Mediterranean coast and the Jordan and ʿArava valleys are important routes for migratory birds.

Settlement patterns
      Jewish immigration in the 20th century greatly altered the settlement pattern of the country. The first modern-day Jewish settlers established themselves on the coastal plain in the 1880s. Later they also moved into the valleys of the interior and into parts of the hill districts, as well as into the Negev. Small cities such as Haifa and Jerusalem grew in size, and the port of Jaffa (Yafo) sprouted a suburb, Tel Aviv, which grew into the largest city in Israel. Jewish immigrants also settled those areas of the coastal plain, the Judaean foothills, and the Jordan and ʿArava valleys evacuated by Palestinians during the war of 1948, thereby becoming the majority in many areas previously inhabited by Arabs. Although the majority of the Bedouin of the Negev left the region when Israel incorporated the territory, the desert has continued to be largely the domain of the Arab nomads who remained or returned following the end of fighting.

      The non-Jewish population is concentrated mainly in Jerusalem (about one-fifth of the residents of the city), and in the north, where Arabs constitute a substantial part of the population of Galilee.

      Jerusalem, perched high among the Judaean hills, is one of the great cities of the world, with a long history, unique architecture, and rich archeological heritage. It is the capital of Israel, and its walled “Old City” is divided into four quarters—Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian—symbolizing its spiritual significance to the region's major religious and ethnic groups.

Rural settlement
      The rural population, defined as residents of settlements with less than 2,000 people, amounts to less than one-tenth of the nation's total inhabitants. About one-tenth of the Jewish population is rural, of whom more than half are immigrants who arrived after 1948. The Jewish rural settlements are organized into kibbutzim (kibbutz) (2 percent of the total population), which are collective groups voluntarily practicing joint production and consumption; moshavim (moshav) (3 percent), which are cooperatives of small holders who practice joint sales and purchases, make common use of machinery, minimize hired labour, and lease national land; and agricultural communities or individually owned farms engaged in private production. The kibbutzim and moshavim pioneered settlement in underdeveloped areas, performed security functions in border areas, and contributed substantially to the nation's ability to absorb new immigrants in the early years of the state.

      Only a tiny fraction of the Arab population lives in rural areas. Those who do are divided between the Bedouin and residents of small agricultural villages. Many such communities are now defined as urban by the Israeli government because their populations exceed 2,000, despite the fact that some residents still engage in agriculture. Before 1948 Jewish and Arab agricultural settlements existed side by side but were largely independent of each other. Since then, however, thousands of Arabs from the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank have found employment in Israel in the citrus groves or in industry or as construction labourers. This ready labour pool, together with increased agricultural mechanization, has led to a drop in the number of Jewish agricultural workers. In Arab villages, fewer than half of the adult labourers, both men and women, are engaged in working the land.

      There has been a growing tendency among farmers to practice intensive cultivation, to diversify crops, and to shift from small holdings to large farms. Most of the remaining Arab farmers work their own land, although some either lease land or work for Arab or Jewish landlords. Many Bedouin also have abandoned herding for work in towns and cities, establishing residence in permanent settlements that continue to maintain traditional tribal identity.

Urban settlement
      The great majority of the population, both Jewish and Arab, reside in urban areas. As the industrial and service sectors of the economy have grown, the two large conurbations of Tel Aviv–Yafo and Haifa, along the coastal plain, now house more than half of the country's population, while the cities of Jerusalem and Beersheba contain another one-fourth. The government has made great efforts to prevent the population from becoming overconcentrated in these areas, overseeing in both the north and south the development of new towns occupied largely by the country's most recent immigrants. These towns serve as centres of regional settlement and fulfill specialized economic functions, such as the manufacture of textiles, clothing, machinery, electronic equipment, and computer software. One such place, Beersheba, in the northern Negev, grew from a planned new town founded on a small older settlement in the 1950s into a city, the result of waves of Jewish immigrants from North Africa and the former Soviet Union.

      The major urban centres inhabited by Arabs include cities and towns with both Arab and Jewish populations—such as Jerusalem, Haifa, ʿAkko (Akkoʿ), Lod, Ramla, and Yafo—and towns with predominantly Arab populations, including Nazareth in Galilee, where a mainly Jewish suburb is nearly equal in population to the Arab city. Many of the former differences in ways of life between Arabs and Jews are diminishing in towns with mixed populations, even though each group usually lives in different quarters.

The people

Religious and ethnic groups
      Jews constitute about four-fifths of the total population of Israel. Almost all the rest are Palestinian Arabs, of whom most (roughly three-fourths) are Muslim; the remaining Arabs are Christians and Druze, who each make up only a small fraction of the total population. Arabs are the overwhelming majority in the Gaza Strip and the occupied territory of the West Bank. (For information on Palestinians residing outside Israel, see Palestine.)

      The Jewish population is diverse. Jews from eastern and western Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, North America, and Latin America have been immigrating to this area since the late 19th century. Differing in ethnic origin and culture, they brought with them languages and customs from a variety of countries. The Jewish community today includes survivors of the Holocaust, offspring of those survivors, and émigrés escaping anti-Semitism. The revival of Hebrew (Hebrew language) as a common language and a strong Israeli national consciousness have facilitated the assimilation of newcomers to Israel but not completely eradicated native ethnicities. For example, religious Jews immigrating to Israel generally continue to pray in synagogues established by their respective communities.

      Religious Jewry in Israel constitutes a significant and articulate section of the population. As such, it is often at odds with a strong secular sector that seeks to prevent religious bodies and authorities from dominating national life. The two main religious-ethnic groupings are those Jews from central and eastern Europe and their descendants who follow the Ashkenazic (Ashkenazi) traditions and those Jews from the Mediterranean region and North Africa who follow the Sephardic (Sephardi). There are two chief rabbis in Israel, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi. Tension is frequent between the two groups, largely because of their cultural differences and the social and political dominance of the Ashkenazim in Israeli society. Until recently, it was generally true that the Sephardim tended to be poorer, less educated, and less represented in higher political office than the Ashkenazim.

      The Karaites (Karaism) are a Jewish sect that emerged in the early Middle Ages. Several thousand members live in Ramla, and more recently in Beersheba and Ashdod. Like other religious minorities, they have their own religious courts and communal organizations. Considered part of Jewish society, they have maintained their separate identity by resisting intermarriage and preserving their religious rites based on the Torah as the sole source of religious law.

      Samaritans (Samaritan) trace their roots to those Jews not dispersed when the Assyrians conquered Israel in the 8th century BCE. About half of the few hundred surviving members of the Samaritan community live near Tel Aviv in the town of Ḥolon (olon). The rest live on Mount Gerizim (Gerizim, Mount) (Arabic: Jabal al-Ṭūr), near Nāblus in the West Bank. They preserve their separate religious and communal organizations and speak Arabic but pray in an archaic form of Hebrew. They participate in national life as part of the Jewish section of the population.

      Arabs constitute the largest single minority in Israel, and though most are Muslims of the Sunnite branch, Arab Christians form a significant minority, particularly in the Galilee region in northern Israel. Arabs, whether Christian, Muslim, or Druze, speak a dialect of Levantine Arabic and learn Modern Standard Arabic in school. An increasing number also avail themselves of higher education within Israel's public schools and colleges, and many younger Arabs are now bilingual in Hebrew. Although most Israeli Arabs consider themselves Palestinians, all are full Israeli citizens with political and civil rights that are, with the exception of some limitations on military service, equal to those of Israeli Jews. Many Arabs participate actively in the Israeli political process, and several Arab political parties have members in the Israeli Knesset. Despite this inclusiveness, however, many Israeli Arabs still see themselves as living in an occupied state, and suspicions and antagonism persist.

Muslims (Islāmic world)
      The overwhelming majority of Israel's Muslims are Arabs. Like all other religious communities, Muslims enjoy considerable autonomy in dealing with matters of personal status. They have separate religious courts for issues such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The state oversees their religious institutions. Israel's Bedouin, roughly one-tenth of the Arab population, are exclusively Muslim.

Christians (Christianity)
      Most Christians in Israel are Arabs, and Christian communities in Israel, regardless of ethnicity, have a wide degree of autonomy in religious and communal affairs. The Greek Catholic (Greek Catholic church) and Greek Orthodox (Greek Orthodox Church) churches are the largest denominations, and most of them are found in Jerusalem. Apart from the Greek Orthodox church, which has a patriarchate in Jerusalem, each church is dependent to a degree on a supreme hierarch abroad. These communities include Roman Catholics and Uniates (Melchites, Maronites, Chaldean Catholics, Syrian Catholics, and Armenian Catholics). Jerusalem also has a Russian Orthodox community. The Evangelical, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches are small and primarily Arabic-speaking.

      The Druze, who live in villages in Galilee and around Mount Carmel (Carmel, Mount), have traditionally formed a closed, tight-knit community and practice a secretive religion founded in 11th-century Fāṭimid Egypt. Though Israeli Druze maintain contact with coreligionists in Lebanon and Syria, members of each group adhere to the authority of the country of their residence. Israel has recognized the Druze as a separate Arab community since 1957, and Israeli Druze serve in the armed forces. Druze have traditionally been agriculturists, but younger members have found employment throughout the economy.

Other groups
      The Bahāʾī faith, a universal religion founded in Iran in the mid-19th century, is the only religion other than Judaism to have its world centre in Israel. A teaching centre, archive building, shrine, and administrative headquarters are located on Mount Carmel in Haifa. There are a few hundred adherents in Israel, most of whom are employed at the centre in Haifa.

      The Circassians (Circassian), who are Sunnite Muslims, emigrated from the Caucasus in the 1870s. They number a few thousand and live in villages in Galilee, preserving their native language and traditions. Older Circassians speak Arabic as well as the Circassian language, but members of the younger generation speak Hebrew. The men serve in the Israeli armed forces.

Demographic trends
      The most significant demographic issue in Israel since its establishment has been Jewish immigration. In 1948 the Jewish population of Israel was about 670,000; this number increased to more than 1,000,000 the next year as a result of immigration. Between 1949 and 1997 about 2,350,000 Jewish immigrants entered the country; about 700,000 to 750,000 Jews left it, although some later returned. The total number of immigrants includes more than 320,000 Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) Jews who came to Israel in 1989–91 and have continued to arrive at the rate of about 50,000 per year. Nearly 28,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrated in 1990–92, adding to an earlier migration of 11,000 in 1984–85. The largest proportion of Jews trace their roots to Europe (including the former Soviet Union) and North America, though some also hail from Africa (mostly North Africa), Asia, and the Middle East.

      More than half of the Arab population fled their homes during the war of 1948, of whom only a small fraction were allowed to return after the end of hostilities. While the Jewish population has grown more from immigration than from natural increase since that time, the Arab population has grown mainly through high birth rates, which are markedly higher than among Israel's Jews, and through the addition of about 66,000 residents of East Jerusalem, captured from Jordan in 1967 and later annexed by Israel. Overall, the population is youthful, with about one-fourth being 15 years old or younger. Life expectancy is among the highest in the world: some 80 years for women and 77 years for men.

The economy
      The large influx of well-trained and Western-educated European and North American immigrants contributed greatly to a rapid rise in Israel's gross national product (GNP) after 1948. Although most of them had to change occupations, a nucleus of highly skilled labour, in combination with the country's rapid founding of universities and research institutes, facilitated economic expansion. The country obtained large amounts of capital, which included gifts from world Jewry, reparations from the Federal Republic of Germany for Nazi crimes, grants-in-aid from the U.S. government, and capital brought in by immigrants. Israel has supplemented these forms of revenue with loans, commercial credits, and foreign investment.

      The goals of Israel's economic policy are continued growth and the further integration of the country's economy into world markets. Israel has made progress toward these goals under difficult conditions, such as a rapid population increase, a boycott by neighbouring Arab countries (except Egypt from 1979 and Jordan from 1994), heavy expenditure on defense, a scarcity of natural resources, high rates of inflation, and a small domestic market that limits the economic savings of mass production. Despite these obstacles, Israel has achieved a high standard of living for most of its residents, the growth of substantial industrial export and tourism sectors, and world-class excellence in advanced technologies and science-based industry. However, this economic progress has not been uniform. Israeli Arabs are generally at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, and there are substantial economic divisions among Israeli Jews, mainly between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim.

      Large influxes of capital have passed through government channels and public organizations and enlarged that sector of the economy that engages in enterprises between the government and private concerns. Government policy dating from the late 1970s, however, has been directed toward privatization. The private, governmental, and, to a limited extent, cooperative sectors all coexist in an economy that supports both the broad objectives of state policy and individual enterprise.

      Tax rates in Israel are among the highest in the world, with income, value-added, customs and excise, land, and luxury taxes being the main sources of revenue. The government has gradually raised the proportion of indirect taxes since the late 1950s. Tax reforms in 1985 included a new corporate tax levied on previously untaxed business sectors while slightly reducing direct taxes on individuals. Taxation approaches two-fifths of the value of GNP and is about one-fourth of average household income.

      The General Federation of Labour in Israel ( Histadrut) is the largest labour union and voluntary organization in the country. It once was also one of the largest employers in Israel and owner or joint owner of a wide range of industries, but by the mid-1990s it had sold most of its holdings to private investors. Since 1960 Arab workers have been admitted to the organization with full membership rights. The Manufacturers' Association of Israel and the Farmers' Union represent a large number of the country's employers.

Mineral resources
      Mineral resources include potash, bromine, and magnesium, the last two deriving from the waters of the Dead Sea. Copper ore is located in the ʿArava, phosphates and small amounts of gypsum in the Negev, and some marble in Galilee. Israel began limited petroleum exploitation in the 1950s, and small oil deposits have been found in the northern Negev and south of Tel Aviv. The country also has reserves of natural gas in the northern Negev northeast of Beersheba and offshore in the Mediterranean.

      The power industry is nationalized, and electricity is generated principally from coal- and oil-burning thermal stations. The government has encouraged intensive rural electrification and has provided electricity for agriculture and industry at favourable rates.

      The Israel Atomic Energy Commission was established in 1952 and has undertaken a comprehensive survey of the country's natural resources and trained scientific and technical personnel. A small atomic reactor for nuclear research was constructed with American assistance south of Tel Aviv. A second reactor, built in the Negev with French help, is used for military weapons research.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
      Early Israeli society was strongly committed to expanding and intensifying agriculture in Palestine. As a result, a rural Jewish agrarian sector emerged that included two unique forms of farming communities, the kibbutz and the moshav. Although the rural sector makes up less than one-tenth of the total Jewish population, such a large rural populace represents something almost unknown in the Diaspora.

      The amount of irrigated land has increased dramatically and, along with extensive farm mechanization, has been a major factor in raising the value of Israel's agricultural production. These improvements have contributed to a great expansion in cultivating citrus and such industrial crops as peanuts (groundnuts), sugar beets, and cotton, as well as vegetables and flowers. Dairying has also increased considerably in importance. Israel produces the major portion of its food supply and must import the remainder.

      The main problem facing agriculture is the scarcity of water. Water is diverted through pipelines from the Jordan and Yarqon rivers and from Lake Tiberias to arid areas in the south. Because almost all the country's current water resources have been fully exploited, further agricultural development involves increasing yields from land already irrigated, obtaining more water by cloud seeding, reducing the amount of evaporation, desalinizing seawater, and expanding desert farming in the Negev by drawing on brackish water found underground. Israel has perfected drip-irrigation methods that conserve water and optimize fertilizer use.

      Only a limited quantity of fish is available off Israel's Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts, and Israeli trawlers sail to the rich fishing grounds in the Indian Ocean off the Ethiopian coast and engage in deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. Inland, fishpond production meets much of the domestic demand.

      For more than 40 years local demand fueled Israeli industrial expansion, as the country's population grew rapidly and the standard of living rose. More recently, world demand for Israeli advanced technologies, software, electronics, and other sophisticated equipment has stimulated industrial growth. Israel's high status in new technologies is the result of its emphasis on higher education and research and development. The government also assists industrial growth by providing low-rate loans from its development budget. The main limitations experienced by industry are the scarcity of domestic raw materials and sources of energy and the restricted size of the local market.

Mining and quarrying
      The country's mining industry supplies local demands for fertilizers, detergents, and drugs and also produces some exports. A plant in Haifa produces potassium nitrate and phosphoric acid for both local consumption and export. Products of the oil refineries at Haifa include polyethylene and carbon black, which are used by the local tire and plastic industries. The electrochemical industry also produces food chemicals and a variety of other commodities. Oil pipelines run from the port of Elat to the Mediterranean. Israel has some producing oil wells but continues to import most of its petroleum.

      Industrial growth has been especially rapid since 1990 in high-technology, science-based industries such as electronics, advanced computer and communications systems, software, and weapons, and these have come to command the largest share of overall manufacturing output. Other principal products include chemicals, plastics, metals, food, and medical and industrial equipment. Israel's diamond-cutting and polishing industry, centred in Tel Aviv, is the largest in the world and is a significant source of foreign exchange. The great majority of industries are privately owned, one exception being the government-run Israel Aircraft Industries, Ltd., a defense and civil aerospace manufacturer. Factories producing military supplies and equipment have expanded considerably since the 1967 war—a circumstance that stimulated the development of the electronics industry.

      Israel's central bank, the Bank of Israel, issues currency and acts as the government's sole fiscal and banking agent. Its major function is to regulate the money supply and short-term banking. The Israeli currency was devalued numerous times after 1948, and the new Israeli shekel (NIS) was introduced in September 1985 to replace the earlier Israeli shekel. The government and central bank introduced this measure as part of a successful economic stabilization policy that helped control a rate of inflation that had grown steadily between the 1950s and mid-1980s and had skyrocketed in the 1970s.

      Israel has commercial (deposit) banks, cooperative credit institutions, mortgage and investment credit banks, and other financial institutions that are supervised by the central bank. The banking system shows a high degree of specialization. Commercial banks are privately owned and generally are restricted to short-term business. Medium- and long-term transactions, however, are handled by development banks jointly owned by private interests and the government, which cater to the investment needs of different sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, housing, and shipping. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was established in 1953.

 Tourism has increased significantly and become an important source of foreign exchange, although its growth at times has been affected by regional strife. Visitors are drawn to Israel's numerous religious, archeological, and historic sites—such as the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock and biblical cities such as Nazareth, and Bethlehem in the West Bank—as well as to its geographic diversity, excellent weather for leisure activities, and links to the Jewish and Palestinian Arab diasporas. There are numerous resorts in the highlands and desert and along the coast, with most tourists coming from Europe and a growing number from North America.

      Access to foreign markets has been vital for further economic expansion. Israel has free trade agreements with the European Union and the United States and is a member of the World Trade Organization. These agreements and Israel's many industrial and scientific innovations have allowed the country to trade successfully despite its lack of access to regional markets in the Middle East. A central problem, however, has been the country's large and persistent annual balance-of-trade deficit.

      Imports consist mainly of raw materials (including rough diamonds), capital goods, and food. Exports more than doubled in value through the 1990s and became highly diversified, originating in all the major manufacturing sectors and in agriculture. High-technology products led the list of exports, and Israel sells fruit (including citrus), vegetables, and flowers throughout Europe during the off-season.

      Israel has developed a modern, well-marked highway system, and road transport is more significant to the country's commercial and passenger services than transport by rail. Bus companies provide efficient service within and between all cities and towns, supplemented by private taxis and sheruts—privately owned and operated shuttles—which run on urban and interurban routes. Sheruts also operate on Saturdays, when much of the regular rail and bus service is suspended in observance of the Sabbath.

      Shipping is a vital factor both for the economy and in communications with other countries. As a result of the closing of the land frontiers following the Arab blockade of Israel, ocean and air shipping has played a major role in the transportation of supplies. Three modern deepwater ports—Haifa and Ashdod on the Mediterranean and Elat on the Red Sea—are maintained and developed by the Israel Ports and Railways Authority and are linked to the country by a combined road and rail system. Israel's shipping access routes to both the Atlantic and Indian oceans have stimulated a continuous growth of its merchant fleet and airfreight facilities.

      The international airport at Lod is the country's largest. Regular flights are maintained by several international airlines, with EL AL Israel Airlines Ltd., Israel's national carrier, accounting for the largest share of the traffic. Scheduled domestic aviation and charter aviation abroad is operated by Arkia Israeli Airlines Ltd. Airports at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Elat, Rosh Pinna, and Haifa serve the country's domestic air traffic.

Administration and social conditions

Constitutional framework
       Prime ministers of Israel Prime ministers of IsraelIsrael does not have a formal written constitution. Instead, its system of government is founded on a series of “basic laws” plus other legislation, executive orders, and parliamentary practice. The country is a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government headed by a prime minister and involving numerous political parties representing a wide range of political positions.

      Israel's lawmaking body, the Knesset, or assembly, is a single-chamber legislature with 120 members who are elected every four years (or more frequently if a Knesset vote of nonconfidence in the government results in an early election). Members exercise important functions in standing committees. Hebrew and Arabic, the country's two official languages, are used in all proceedings.

      The country's prime minister is the head of government and is entrusted with the task of forming the cabinet, which is the government's main policy-making and executive body. Israel has a strong cabinet, and its members may be—but need not be—members of the Knesset.

      The president, who is the head of state, was traditionally elected by the Knesset for a five-year term that could be renewed only once; beginning in 2000, however, presidents were elected for a single, seven-year term. The president has no veto powers and exercises mainly ceremonial functions but has the authority to appoint certain key national officials, including state comptroller, governor of the Bank of Israel, judges, and justices of the Supreme Court.

      The state comptroller—an independent officer elected by the Knesset before being appointed by the president—is responsible only to the Knesset and is the auditor of the government's financial transactions and is empowered to enquire into the efficiency of its activities. The comptroller also acts as a national ombudsman.

      Israel's civil service gradually has become a politically neutral and professional body; previously, it tended to be drawn from, and to support, the party in power. The government's extensive responsibilities and functions have acted to enlarge the bureaucracy.

Local and regional government
      The country is divided into 6 districts—Central, Jerusalem, Haifa, Northern, Southern, and Tel Aviv—and into 15 subdistricts. Local government consists of municipalities, local councils (for smaller settlements), or regional rural councils. The bylaws of the councils, as well as their budgets, are subject to approval by the Ministry of the Interior. Local government elections are held every five years.

The political process
      National and local elections in Israel are by universal, direct suffrage, with secret balloting. All resident Israeli citizens are enfranchised from age 18, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and candidates for election must be at least 21 years old. For national races, the system of election is by proportional representation, and each party receives the number of Knesset seats that is proportional to the number of votes it receives.

      Israel's party system has traditionally been complex and volatile: splinter groups are commonly formed, and party alliances often change. Cabinets are therefore invariably coalitions, often of broad political composition, since no single party has ever been able to obtain an absolute majority in the Knesset. Electoral reform in 1992 brought about two significant changes: direct election of the prime minister—formerly the de facto head of government by dint of being leader of the governing coalition—and primary elections to choose lists of party candidates. The primary system enhanced participatory democracy within the parties, while the prime ministerial ballot increased the power of smaller parties, further splintering the composition of the Knesset and making governing coalitions more difficult to maintain. As a consequence, Knesset representation among the two traditional major parties, Labour (Israel Labour Party) and Likud, diminished. In 2001 direct elections for the premiership were repealed, and Israel returned to its earlier practice, in which the governing coalition's leader sits as prime minister. Despite the change, the two main parties continued to face challenges from minor parties and from new ones such as Kadima, which quickly rose to prominence after being formed in 2005.

      Political parties are both secular and religious, with the Jewish secular parties being Zionist and ranging in orientation from left-wing socialist to capitalist, and the religious parties tending to have ethnic appeal ( Sephardi or Ashkenazi). There are also several Arab parties.

      Israeli citizens take an active interest in public affairs above and beyond membership in political parties. The pattern of Israel's social and economic organization favours participation in trade unions, employers' organizations, and interest groups concerned with state and public affairs.

Israeli-occupied Arab territories
      After the 1967 war (Arab-Israeli wars), Arab territories occupied by Israeli forces were placed under military administration. These included the territory on the west bank of the Jordan River (the West Bank) that had been annexed by Jordan in 1950, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula region of Egypt, and the Golan Heights region of Syria. In addition, East Jerusalem (also formerly part of Jordan) was occupied by Israeli forces, and Israel took over administration of the city as a single municipality; in 1967 Israel incorporated East Jerusalem and adjoining villages and later formally annexed them—actions that have continued to be disputed abroad and hotly contested by Palestinians and neighbouring Arab nations. In 1978 the Israeli military occupied a strip of Lebanese territory adjoining Israel's northern border, from which it withdrew in 2000. Israel passed legislation effectively annexing the Golan Heights in April 1981, but completed a withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in April 1982 after negotiating a peace treaty with Egypt. Likewise, in May 1994, Israel began turning over control of much of the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank—including jurisdiction over most of the people in those areas—to the Palestinians in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho signed by the two parties earlier that month. These exchanges of territory were part of a series of agreements (generally referred to as the Oslo Accords (Israel)) that were initiated by the September 1993 Declaration of Principles on Palestinian Self-Rule. The intent of these agreements was to settle outstanding grievances between the two sides over issues relating to Israeli security and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory (see below The Declaration of Principles and Cairo Agreement (Israel)).

      The Israelis and the newly formed Palestinian Authority (PA) arranged further exchanges of territory as part of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, signed in September 1995, and the Wye River Memorandum (Israel) of October 1998. The transfers, executed in stages, actually occurred more slowly than originally agreed, with a number of stages delayed or postponed. In 2002 Israel also began construction on a barrier described as a security measure against suicide attacks; despite a 2003 United Nations General Assembly (United Nations) vote and a nonbinding International Court of Justice ruling condemning the barrier under international law, construction continued. However, as a result of U.S. negotiations, the barrier, which initially included particularly controversial deviations from the “green line” (the boundary between Israel and the West Bank, as designated by the 1949 cease-fire), was redirected to follow the green line more closely; beginning in 2004, Israel's Supreme Court also ruled on a number of occasions to change the route of the barrier, responding to appeals from individual Palestinian villages near its course.

 In late 2003 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Sharon, Ariel) proposed a new, unilateral approach, based on the notion that Israel had no partner in peace, entailing a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. The disengagement plan initially faced significant opposition from within Sharon's own Likud party but was eventually approved by the Knesset in 2004 amid continued campaigns and resignations opposing it. Nevertheless, in August 2005, as planned, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled four settlements in the West Bank and turned those areas over to the PA.

      Municipal, religious, and military courts exercise a jurisdiction almost identical to that exercised by such courts during the period of the Palestine Mandate. Regional labour courts were established in 1969, and matters of marriage and divorce are dealt with by the religious courts of the various recognized communities. Capital punishment has been maintained only for genocide and crimes committed during the Nazi period.

      The president appoints judges of the magistrates', district, and supreme courts, and judges hold office until mandatory retirement. The Israeli judiciary is highly independent from political influence.

      Israeli law is based on a variety of sources, including Ottoman and British legislation and precedent, religious court opinion, and Israeli parliamentary enactments. The country has convened special investigative panels on unusual occasions—as in the aftermath of the war of 1973 and following the massacre of Palestinians by Christian militiamen in Israeli-controlled sectors of Lebanon in 1982—to issue reports and allocate responsibility among political and military leaders.

      The police in Israel are a branch of the Ministry of Public Security and report to a national headquarters commanded by an inspector general. The same ministry administers the nation's prison system, which is linked to a system to rehabilitate prisoners following their release. The Border Guard is a military arm of the national police and is responsible for maintaining internal security and combating terrorism. A Civil Guard, formed in 1974 by the government to prevent terrorism, consists of volunteers performing neighbourhood-watch and patrol duties.

The armed forces
      The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is generally regarded by military experts as one of the finest armed forces in the world. IDF doctrine has been shaped since Israel's founding by the country's need to stave off attack from the numerically superior and geographically advantaged forces of its hostile Arab neighbours. This doctrine encompasses the IDF's belief that Israel cannot afford to lose a single war, a goal that it feels can be attained only through a defensive strategy that includes a peerless intelligence community and early warning systems and a well-trained, rapidly mobilized reserve component combined with a strategic capability that consists of a small, highly trained, active-duty force that is able to take the war to the enemy, quickly attain military objectives, and rapidly reduce hostile forces.

      An integrated organization encompassing sea, air, and land forces, the IDF consists of a small corps of career officers, active-duty conscripts, and reservists. Military service is compulsory (conscription) for Jews and Druze, both men and women, and for Circassian men. Muslim and Christian Arabs may volunteer, although because of security concerns, the air force and intelligence corps are closed to minorities. The period of active-duty conscription is three years for men and two for women; this is followed by a decades-long period of compulsory reserve duty (to age 50 for women and age 55 for men). Reservists have 30 to 45 days of military service and training per year, but in times of national emergency reserve duty can be extended indefinitely.

      Since the IDF depends on the reserve service of the population to meet manpower requirements, it continues to be mainly a popular militia rather than a professional army. Consequently, civilian-military relations are based firmly on the subordination of the army to civilian control. The chief of staff of the IDF, the nation's highest-ranking military officer, is appointed by the government based on the recommendation of the minister of defense, who selects the appointee from ranking IDF officers. Training is a crucial element of Israeli military success, and the IDF administers an extensive network of military schools and colleges for the training of its enlisted personnel and officers. In addition, a special force, the Nahal, combines military and agricultural training and is also responsible for establishing new defense settlements along Israel's borders. Youth battalions conduct premilitary training for young people both in and out of school. The Israeli government also assigns the IDF to provide educational services for recent immigrants whenever the need arises.

      Schooling is obligatory and free for children between the ages of 5 and 15 and free, but not compulsory, for those 16 and 17. Young people between the ages of 14 and 18, however, who have not completed secondary schooling are obliged to attend special classes. Parents may choose to send children to state secular schools, state religious schools, or private religious schools. For Arab students, there is a system of schools in which Arabic is the primary language of instruction. The school syllabus is supplemented by radio and television educational programming in both Hebrew and Arabic. The educational system gives special attention to agricultural and technical training. Adult education for immigrants assists in their cultural integration.

      In addition to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1925), the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa (1924), and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Reḥovot (1934), several institutions of higher learning have been founded since 1948, including the universities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, Bar-Ilan University (religious, located near Tel Aviv), and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. The Open University of Israel (formerly Everyman's University) in Tel Aviv opened in 1974, and teachers' training colleges include two for Arabs. The language of instruction at Israeli universities is Hebrew, while the teaching system represents a mixture of European and American methods. In the 1990s a number of regional community colleges were established, and several foreign universities began offering specialized professional degrees in fields such as law, business, and education. Academic freedom in the universities is protected by Israeli law.

Health and welfare
      The Ministry of Health maintains its own public and preventive health services, including hospitals and clinics, and it supervises the institutions of nongovernmental organizations. A national health insurance program assures hospitalization coverage and basic medical care for all. Several health maintenance organizations are open to all Israelis, the largest of which, Kupat Holim—with its own physicians, clinics, and hospital—is run by the Histadrut labour union and is recognized worldwide as an exemplary health care organization. Israel ranks among the most successful countries in the world in terms of the proportion of its GNP spent on health care and its rates of life expectancy and infant mortality. There are many private, voluntary organizations dealing with first aid, children's health, and care for the aged and handicapped.

      The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs supervises the service bureaus that deal with family, youth, and community welfare, as well as with rehabilitation of the handicapped. Most of these bureaus operate within local or regional government. Membership in the country's social-insurance plan is compulsory. The program provides welfare, child care and family allowances, income maintenance, disability insurance, old-age pensions, and long-term care for the elderly.

Cultural life

The cultural milieu
      There has been little cultural interchange between the Jewish and Arab sections of Israel's population, although Jews arriving in Israel from communities throughout the world, including the Arab-Muslim Middle East, have brought with them both their own cultural inheritance and elements absorbed from the majority cultures in which they dwelt over the centuries. The intermingling of the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Middle Eastern traditions has been of profound importance in forging modern Israel; however, the arrival of immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet republics has slowed the trend, common among immigrants from central Europe and America, toward creating a cultural synthesis embracing East, West, and native Israeli society. The revival of the Hebrew language, not spoken since biblical times, has also been of great importance in the development of Israel's modern culture. This diverse cultural heritage and shared language, along with a common Jewish tradition, both religious and historical, form the foundation of cultural life in Israel.

The arts
      The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has earned a worldwide reputation for classical music, and Israeli artists such as violinists Itzhak Perlman (Perlman, Itzhak) and Pinchas Zukerman (Zukerman, Pinchas) and pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim (Barenboim, Daniel) have had prominent international careers. Folk dancing and popular singing enjoy widespread interest and combine foreign elements with original creative manifestations. The Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and Arab Palestinian communities have all preserved parts of their ethnic music and dance traditions. In 2000 the Education Ministry began including Israeli-Arab writers in the literature curriculum of state secular schools. Painting and sculpture are still largely influenced by European schools, but local styles have begun to emerge, and several “primitive” artists whose works depict biblical and local themes have become popular. In literature, poetry, and drama, a concentration on themes of the Diaspora is giving way to an interest in national themes, including the Holocaust. Among Israel's most distinguished writers is Shmuel Yosef Agnon (Agnon, S.Y.) (1888–1970), who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966.

      Thanks to an advanced and pervasive communication infrastructure, including cable, satellite, and Internet access, Israeli popular culture is well informed and tuned to the latest international trends and performers. New Israeli pop singers and groups performing in Hebrew emerge frequently. The sound is global and is influenced by folk, rock, and all the latest pop styles, but the lyrics are uniquely Israeli, reflecting the concerns of the nation's youth. At the same time lively and locally produced talk shows in Hebrew are prime-time favourites. In addition to cable and satellite access, Arab neighbourhoods and towns bristle with TV antennas permitting reception from neighbouring Arab countries and making Arabic pop music widely available.

      A wide variety of sports are pursued in Israel, from organized team sports such as football (soccer) and basketball—two perennial favourites—to popular outdoor pastimes such as mountain biking, windsurfing, and scuba diving.

      Jewish pioneers formed the Palestine Olympic Committee in 1933, but the first Israeli team did not participate in the games until the 1952 Summer Games at Helsinki, Finland. However, Israel's Olympic team is perhaps best remembered for the tragic kidnapping and murder of 11 of its members by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, West Germany.

      Israel is the home of the Maccabiah Games, an international gathering of Jewish athletes competing in a wide variety of athletic contests and sports that range from traditional Olympic-style events such as track and field and swimming to team and individual pursuits such as squash, bridge, table tennis, and baseball. Established in 1932 by the World Maccabi Union, a Jewish sports foundation, the games are held every four years and draw thousands of competitors. Beyond being an important athletic competition, the Maccabiah Games are a major cultural event in the world Jewish community.

Cultural institutions
      Israel has a rich and varied range of cultural institutions, including major libraries, an art institute and artists' colonies, art museums, institutes for archeology and folk life, theatres, concert halls and performing arts centres, and movie houses. A thriving film industry has emerged. In 1953 the Israeli government established the Academy of the Hebrew Language as the supreme authority on all questions related to the language and its usages, and it founded the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1959. The Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem is preeminent among the nation's several hundred libraries. Habima, Israel's national theatre, was founded in Moscow in 1917 and moved to Palestine in 1931. There are a number of other theatres in the country, some of them in the kibbutzim. Foremost among the many art galleries and museums is the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which also houses part of the archaeological collection of the government's Department of Antiquities. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 was a powerful stimulus to biblical and historical research in the country.

Press and broadcasting
      Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv–Yafo) is the centre of newspaper publishing in Israel. In the past newspapers were often associated with a political party, but most have now passed to private ownership. Most newspapers are written in Hebrew, but a considerable number are also published in Yiddish, English, German, Arabic, Russian, Polish, French, Bulgarian, and Romanian. There are hundreds of other periodicals, of which more than half are in Hebrew.

      The Israel Broadcasting Authority, whose members are appointed by the president, controls and licenses the broadcasting industry. Commercial radio and broadcasting has been allowed since 1986. There are two public radio networks—one providing classical programming and the other more popular music—and an armed forces station; in addition several private radio stations have been established since 1986. Programs are broadcast mainly in Hebrew, Arabic, and English but also in a wide variety of other languages, including Yiddish, Russian, Ladino (Ladino language) (a Spanish dialect of the Sephardic Jews), and Moghrabi (Moroccan Judeo-Arabic).

      Television programming, introduced in 1966, is in Hebrew and Arabic. There are two television networks, one of which is government-owned and the other privately funded, and an educational television service. Cable and direct-dish television are available in much of the country, providing a wide range of international programming via satellite, and Internet access is widely available.

Eliahu Elath William L. Ochsenwald Russell A. Stone

      This discussion focuses primarily on the modern state of Israel. For treatment of earlier history and of the country in its regional context, see Palestine, history of (Palestine).

      The nation of Israel is the world's first Jewish (Judaism) state in two millennia. It represents for Jews the restoration of their homeland after the centuries-long Diaspora that followed the demise of the Herodian kingdom in the 1st century CE. As such, it remains the focus of widespread Jewish immigration, and more than one-third of world Jewry now lives there.

      The country, barely half a century old, was born in the midst of war. It took Israel three decades and numerous conflicts, large and small, to achieve its first peace treaty with a neighbouring Arab country, Egypt. That process has been complicated by Israel's relations with the Palestinians, many of whom were displaced by the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 or came under Israeli rule following the Six-Day War in 1967. Only since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 has an inclusive peace settlement with other Arab states and with the region's Palestinian Arabs been a possibility.

      Israel's national security policy has been dominated by the prime minister and shaped by coalition politics—often disrupted by social and religious issues—that have characterized the state since its creation. While the country's two major parties, the left-wing Labour (Israel Labour Party) and right-wing Likud, often found a consensus on security issues, especially during crises, they retained an important difference that dates to the early years of Zionism. Both parties affirm Jewish rights to the biblical land of Israel (an area only slightly larger than the U.S. state of Vermont), but Labour has been ready, as the price of peace, to cede sovereignty to the Arabs of part of the area it occupied after the 1967 war, while Likud has insisted that control of that territory is vital to Israel's security. Neither political party, however, has been prepared to accept the return to Israel of large numbers of Palestinian refugees. Despite extensive peace talks following Oslo, and a peace treaty with Jordan (1994) Israel has not been able to come to an amicable peace with Syria or Lebanon or with the Palestinians. Persistent bouts of violence have dimmed hopes for peace.

      Domestically, Israel moved steadily from an economy directed by the state to one that was more market oriented. A novel feature of the earlier economy was the kibbutz, a collective settlement movement that exemplified the Labour-Zionist movement's ideals of sacrifice and leadership. After Labour lost political power to the nonsocialist Likud opposition in 1977, the kibbutz ideal began to wane and with it the socialist and secular beliefs so strong at Israel's birth. The huge influx of Sephardic Jews in the 1950s and Russian Jews in the 1980s and '90s forced more political, social, and economic changes, as these groups acquired increasing power and influence. A crucial unresolved question remained: the relationship between religion and state.

Origins of a modern Jewish state
      Modern Israel springs from both religious and political sources. The biblical promise of a land for the Jews and a return to the Temple in Jerusalem were enshrined in Judaism and sustained Jewish identity through an exile of 19 centuries following the failed revolts in Judaea against the Romans early in the Common Era. By the 1800s, fewer than 25,000 Jews still lived in their ancient homeland, and these were largely concentrated in Jerusalem, then a provincial backwater of the Ottoman Empire.

 In the 1880s, however, a rise in European anti-Semitism and revived Jewish national (nationalism) pride combined to inspire a new wave of emigration to Palestine in the form of agricultural colonies financed by the Rothschilds (Rothschild family) and other wealthy families. Political Zionism came a decade later, when the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl (Herzl, Theodor) began advocating a Jewish state as the political solution for both anti-Semitism (he had covered the sensational Dreyfus affair (Dreyfus, Alfred) in France) and a Jewish secular identity. Herzl's brief and dramatic bid for international support from the major powers at the First Zionist Congress (August 1897) failed, but, after his death in 1904, the surviving Zionist organization under the leadership of Chaim Weizmann (Weizmann, Chaim) undertook a major effort to increase the Jewish population in Palestine while continuing to search for political assistance.

      These efforts could only be on a small scale while the Ottoman Turks ruled what the Europeans called Palestine (from Palaestina, “Land of the Philistines,” the Latin name given Judaea by the Romans). But in 1917, during World War I, the Zionists persuaded the British government to issue the Balfour Declaration, a document that committed Britain to facilitate the establishment of a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine. Amid considerable controversy over conflicting wartime promises to the Arabs and French, Britain succeeded in gaining the endorsement of the declaration by the new League of Nations (Nations, League of), which placed Palestine under British mandate. This achievement reflected a heady mixture of religious and imperial motivations that Britain would find difficult to reconcile in the troubled years ahead.

Immigration and conflict
      The Zionist goal of Jewish statehood was violently opposed by the local Arab leaders, who saw the Ottoman defeat as an opportunity either to create their own state or to join a larger Arab entity—thus reviving the old Arab empire of early Islamic times. British efforts to bring the Zionists and the Arabs together in a cooperative government failed, and serious disorders, escalating into organized violence, were to mark the mandate, culminating in the Arab Revolt (Palestine) of 1936–39. This period also marked the birth of local Jewish defense forces. The largest and most widely representative of the various militias, the Haganah (“Defense”) was a branch of the Jewish Agency, the organization most responsible for bringing Jews to Israel.

 The most effective of the main, pre-state militias were associated with political factions from both the right and left wings of Zionist politics. The Irgun Zvai Leumi and its even more violent splinter group, Lehi (Stern Gang) (also known as the Stern Gang), were affiliated with the ultraconservative Revisionist Party, founded by Vladimir Zev Jabotinsky (Jabotinsky, Vladimir). (The Revisionists withdrew from the main Zionist institutions in 1935 in protest against Jewish cooperation with the British mandate.) Another group, the Palmach, though technically an elite arm of the Haganah, was heavily influenced by a Marxist-socialist party, Achdut HaAvoda, and recruited many of its members from socialist-oriented kibbutzim. Members of these militias were to play an important role in Israeli politics for the next half century: Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan (Dayan, Moshe), and Yitzhak Rabin (Rabin, Yitzhak) were high-ranking members of the Haganah-Palmach, Menachem Begin led the Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir (Shamir, Yitzḥak) was a prominent member of the Lehi. Three of these men—Rabin, Shamir, and Begin—would later become prime ministers of Israel.

      Britain encouraged Jewish immigration in the 1920s, but the onset of the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s and the flight of refugees from Nazi Germany led to a change in policy. The British government proposed the partition of Palestine into mutually dependent Arab and Jewish states. When this was rejected by the Arabs, London decided in 1939 to restrict Jewish immigration severely in the hope that it would retain Arab support against Germany and Italy. Palestine was thus largely closed off to Jews fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe during World War II. Despite this fact, the majority of the Jewish population supported the Allies during the war while seeking, when possible, clandestine Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Jewish community, which was less than 100,000 in 1919, numbered some 600,000 by the end of the war. The Arabs of Palestine had also increased under the mandate (through high birth rates and immigration) from about 440,000 to roughly 1,000,000 in 1940.

      The pre-Holocaust Zionist struggle to secure international support, overcome Arab opposition, and promote immigration resumed with special fervour after 1945, when the true extent of Jewish losses (Holocaust) in Europe became evident. In Britain, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee (Attlee, Clement, 1st Earl Attlee of Walthamstow, Viscount Prestwood), alarmed by growing violence in Palestine between Arabs and Jewish immigrants, decided to end the mandate, but it was unable to do so in a peaceful way. Attlee and his foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin (Bevin, Ernest), came under pressure by the Zionists and their sympathizers, especially President Harry S. Truman (Truman, Harry S.) in the United States, to admit the desperate remnant of European Jewry into Palestine; they were equally pressured by local and regional Arab opponents of a Jewish state to put an end to further immigration. Both sides, Arab and Jewish, violently assailed the reinforced garrison in Palestine of the war-weakened British.

      Finally, London turned the problem over to the newly formed United Nations (UN), and on November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to divide British-ruled Palestine into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. This decision was immediately opposed by the Arabs who, under the ostensible leadership of Hajj Amīn al-Ḥusaynī (Ḥusaynī, Amīn al-), the grand mufti of Jerusalem, attacked Jews throughout Palestine as the British withdrew. The fighting was savage, and many civilians were slain: incidents cited include the killing of 250 Arab villagers by a group of Irgun commandos in the village of Dayr Yāsīn and the massacre of 77 members of a Hadassah medical convoy by Palestinian Arabs.

Establishment of Israel
The war of 1948 (Arab-Israeli wars)
      The Zionist militias gained the upper hand over the Palestinians through skill and pluck, aided considerably by intra-Arab rivalries. Israel's declaration of independence on May 14, 1948, was quickly recognized by the United States, the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), and many other governments, fulfilling the Zionist dream of an internationally approved Jewish state. Neither the UN nor the world leaders, however, could spare Israel from immediate invasion by the armies of five Arab states—Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan (now Jordan)—and within a few days, the state's survival appeared to be at stake.

 The Israeli forces, desperately short of arms and training, still had the advantage of having just beaten al-Ḥusaynī's irregulars, and their morale was high. David Ben-Gurion (Ben-Gurion, David), the new prime minister, had also, soon after independence, unified the military command, although this process was bloody. When an Irgun ship called the Altalena attempted to land near Tel Aviv in June 1948 under conditions unacceptable to Ben-Gurion, he ordered it stopped. Troops commanded by Yitzhak Rabin fired on the vessel, killing 82 people (Menachem Begin was one of the survivors). The Irgun and Palmach finally consented to the unified command, but relations between the Labour movement Ben-Gurion had established and its right-wing opposition, founded in Jabotinsky's Revisionist Party, were poisoned for years.

      The Arab invaders far outnumbered the Zionists but fielded only a few well-trained units. In addition, some Arab logistical lines were long, making resupply and communication difficult. The most formidable Arab force was Transjordan's British-led Arab Legion, but the Jordanian ruler, King ʿAbdullāh (Abdullāh Iʿ), had secret relations with the Zionists and strongly opposed a Palestinian state led by his enemy al-Ḥusaynī. Other states, such as Egypt and Iraq, also had different objectives, and this internal strife, disorganization, and military ineptitude prevented the Arabs from mounting a coordinated attack.

      Small numbers of Israeli forces were able to keep Egyptian, Iraqi, and Jordanian units from entering Tel Aviv and cutting off Jerusalem from the rest of the newly founded country during the crucial first month of the war. In June all sides accepted a UN cease-fire, and the nearly exhausted Israelis reequipped themselves, sometimes from secret sources. Notable was the clandestine effort by Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia, which offered Israel both arms and an airfield—Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Stalin, Joseph) had decided that the Jewish state might be a useful thorn in the side of Britain and the United States, his Cold War enemies.

      Fierce fighting resumed in early July and continued for months interspersed with brief truces. The Israelis drove back the Egyptian and Iraqi forces that menaced the south and central parts of the coastal plain. However, the old walled city of Jerusalem, containing the Western Wall, the last remnant of the ancient Temple destroyed by the Romans and held holy by Jews, was occupied by the Jordanians, and Jerusalem's lifeline to the coast was jeopardized. The Egyptians held Gaza, and the Syrians entrenched themselves in the Golan Heights overlooking Galilee. The 1948 war was Israel's costliest: more than 6,000 were killed and 30,000 wounded out of a population of only 780,000.

Armistice and refugees
      Initial UN mediation conducted by Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte (Bernadotte ()) produced a peace plan rejected by all sides, and Bernadotte himself was murdered by Lehi extremists in September 1948. When Israel secured the final armistice of the war in July 1949, the new state controlled one-fifth more territory than the original partition plan had specified and rejected a return to the original partition line. Jordan occupied the West Bank, which was much of the area assigned by the UN to the stillborn Palestinian state, and more than 600,000 Arab refugees fled their homes in an exodus that had begun even before May 1948. Some were forced out by Israeli troops, notably from the towns of Lod and Ramla in the strategic area near Tel Aviv airport. The Israeli government refused to permit these refugees, who gathered under UN care in camps in Gaza, the West Bank, southern Lebanon, and Syria, to return to their homes inside Israel, and many Palestinians were to stay in these camps indefinitely.

      Israel's victory in the war did not bring peace. The Arabs, who were humiliated by defeat and still bitterly divided, refused to recognize the Jewish state. In early 1949, the Arab nations announced a state of war with Israel and organized an economic and political boycott of the country.

The Ben-Gurion (Ben-Gurion, David) era
Emergence of a nation
      The new Israeli state thus had to deal with challenges similar to those faced by the pre-1948 Zionist movement and needed foreign assistance, an effective strategy to hold off the Arabs, and massive Jewish immigration to settle the land in order to survive. All of this had to be done at once, and none of it could be possible without Israeli national unity.

      Israel's first regular election in 1949 returned Ben-Gurion to power but did not give his Mapai (Labour) Party a majority. This set a pattern, and every Israeli government since independence has been formed as a coalition. Ben-Gurion sought a centrist position, condemning those to his left as pro-Soviet and those to his right as antidemocratic. He buttressed these arrangements by adding the Zionist religious parties to his largely secular coalition in what became known as the “status quo.” The Orthodox Jewish (Orthodox Judaism) religious parties backed Ben-Gurion on security issues, while Ben-Gurion supported an Orthodox monopoly over the control of marriage, divorce, conversion, and other personal status issues. Part of the status quo, however, included rejecting the idea of drafting a written constitution or bill of rights, and the Jewish content of the Jewish state thus would be defined by the rough-and-tumble of Israeli politics and the evolution of Israeli society.

      During the early years, Israel had to absorb a major influx of immigrants, including several hundred thousand nearly destitute Holocaust survivors and a large influx of Sephardic Jews from Arab states, who felt increasingly insecure in their home countries following the Arab defeat in 1948. As a result, the Knesset passed the Law of Return in 1950, granting Jews immediate citizenship. This law, however, proved to be controversial in later years when the question of “who is a Jew?” raised other issues in the Jewish state, including those of the immigration of non-Jewish relatives, religious conversion, and, in light of the Orthodox monopoly over such matters, the issue of who is truly qualified to be a rabbi. Ben-Gurion's coalition was also frequently disturbed by quarrels over education and the role religion was to play in it. Orthodox support for the government often faltered over what they saw to be state interference in a religious domain.

      No less serious was the question of ethnicity. The Sephardim (Sephardi), or Oriental Jews, were mostly from urban and traditional societies, and after arriving in Israel they encountered an Ashkenazic, or European, Zionist establishment intent on creating a new Israeli culture and settling these predominantly urban newcomers in rural and isolated villages and development towns. The Sephardim soon grew to resent what they regarded as a patronizing Ashkenazic elite, and eventually this was to hurt Labour at the ballot box.

      Israel was impoverished, and its economy emerged from severe austerity only after 1952 when the country began to obtain substantial international aid, including grants from Jewish charities, revenue from the sale of bonds, and U.S. government assistance. Beginning in 1953, Ben-Gurion secured economic aid from what was then West Germany, a highly controversial act that was seen by many as reparations for the Holocaust. This action brought about violent protests led by members of Menachem Begin's (Begin, Menachem) Herut Party (the successor to the Revisionists), who felt that any such aid would be an abomination.

Continuing tensions
      Despite its victory in the 1948 war, Israel soon faced new and severe threats. Arab refugees infiltrated the armistice lines seeking to reclaim fields and houses. Soon, irregular Arab forces, drawn from refugee camps outside Israel's borders, began to attack Israeli villages, farms, and road traffic. Israel also contained a sizable minority of Arabs (then roughly one-sixth of the population), who were kept under military rule in certain areas until 1966 and, in some cases, were relocated away from border zones.

      The Israelis intensively cultivated the land on their side of the border, while the Arabs tended to leave their side barren—hence the phrase “green line,” referring to the border between the two sides. The green lines themselves were difficult to defend; only 12 miles (19 km) separated Jordanian army positions from the Mediterranean, and the road connecting Jerusalem with the rest of the Israel was within rifle range of Arab sharpshooters. Israel's potential allies, including the United States, were preoccupied with the Cold War and were willing to placate Arab leaders in order to limit Soviet influence among the Arab states, especially Egypt, which looked to Moscow for help against Britain and France, the remaining colonial powers in the region.

      Israel's best chance for peace was King ʿAbdullāh of Jordan, but in 1950 Palestinian and Arab opposition forced him to abandon a secretly negotiated nonbelligerency agreement. When the Egyptians tried unsuccessfully to establish a rump Palestinian state in Gaza under al-Ḥusaynī, ʿAbdullāh announced the annexation of the West Bank, which his country had occupied two years earlier. Then, in July 1951, the Jordanian king was assassinated on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by a Palestinian. His grandson, the future King Ḥussein (Ḥussein), barely escaped injury and was to continue ʿAbdullāh's policy of clandestine contact with Israel but, like his grandfather, never felt politically strong enough to make a separate peace.

      In the period 1949–53 Arab attacks killed hundreds of Israelis, four-fifths of whom were civilian. In early 1953 Israel decided to take the offensive against Arab guerrillas who were infiltrating from Jordan and the Egyptian-run Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) escalated retaliations, fighting pitched battles not only with guerrillas but with regular Jordanian and Egyptian army units. The Israelis also launched undercover operations, one of which, the so-called Lavon affair, was a botched attempt by Israeli intelligence to hurt Egypt's reputation in the United States by staging attacks on U.S. facilities in Egypt and blaming Arab extremists.

The Suez War
      The Israeli raids humiliated Egypt's nationalist government headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser (Nasser, Gamal Abdel), a veteran of the 1948 war and leader of the group that had overthrown King Farouk (Farouk I) in 1952. Nasser sought to lead the Arabs in expelling British and French imperial influence and regarded Israel as a symbol of foreign aggression. After he failed to obtain American arms to repel the Israeli attacks, Nasser trumped both Israel and his Western adversaries when in October 1955 he signed a security agreement with the Soviet Union and a major arms deal with Czechoslovakia that threatened overnight to erase Israel's tenuous margin of military superiority, especially in aircraft. He also announced a blockade of the Strait of Tiran, the outlet of Israel's southern port city of Elat.

      Ben-Gurion, exhausted by political struggles, had left the premiership in late 1953 to Moshe Sharett, who hoped that vigorous international diplomacy might relieve Israel's insecurity. It did not. Ben-Gurion had a different approach, and returning as prime minister in late 1955 after the Czech-Egyptian arms deal, he soon began to plan a preemptive attack against Egypt before that country's new weaponry gave it strategic superiority. The preparations for an Israeli attack coincided with the Anglo-French decision to regain the Suez Canal, which Nasser had nationalized in July 1956 despite agreements putting it under international control. The French brokered a secret alliance with Israel and Britain, and in October IDF troops, under the leadership of Moshe Dayan (Dayan, Moshe), swiftly broke the Egyptian lines in the Sinai. The Israeli attack provided the cover for a ruse in which the British and French invaded the canal zone under the pretext of protecting it. This duplicity infuriated American President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Eisenhower, Dwight D.), who compelled the British and French governments to withdraw their troops, effectively ending much of the influence of those two countries in the region. Israel was also compelled to return to the old armistice lines, but not before the United States had agreed to placing a UN (United Nations) peacekeeping force in the Sinai. American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles also promised in writing that the United States would treat the Strait of Tiran as an international waterway and keep it open.

      These arrangements did not lead to peace negotiations, but they did impose a calm over Israel's southern border for nearly a decade. A regional arms race began in the absence of any movement toward peace, and Shimon Peres (Peres, Shimon), Ben-Gurion's deputy defense minister, found France to be a willing supplier. The French-designed nuclear reactor in Dimona was widely suspected of being the kernel of an Israeli nuclear weapons program, while French Mirage jets became the backbone of Israel's air force. The Israelis also obtained a large indirect supply of arms from the United States, with West Germany as the intermediary. Israel, under the leadership of IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, turned its military into a highly professional organization.

Labour rule after Ben-Gurion
 Ben-Gurion stepped down as prime minister in June 1963, angered by the results of a review of the decade-old Lavon affair that had not, in his view, attached blame adequately to those responsible for that failed and illegal operation. His efforts at building the Israeli state had also brought him into conflict with his own party's ideology, the Orthodox religious establishment, and the international Zionist movement. Gathering about him a group of younger leaders in 1965, notably Shimon Peres and Moshe Dayan, Ben-Gurion organized a new political party, Rafi, though he eventually retired from politics permanently in 1970 when that party failed to generate support.

      Ben-Gurion's successor, Levi Eshkol (Eshkol, Levi), had much less experience in defense issues and relied heavily on Rabin. Neither the Jordanian nor the Syrian borders were quiet during the years leading up to the Six-Day War, but all Israelis were taken by surprise when in May 1967 increasingly violent clashes with Palestinian guerrillas and Syrian army forces along Lake Tiberias led to a general crisis. The Soviet Union alleged that Israel was mobilizing to attack Syria, and the Syrian government, in turn, chided President Nasser of Egypt for inaction. Nasser then mobilized his own forces, which he promptly sent into the Sinai after he ordered that UN forces there be withdrawn, and announced a blockade of the Strait of Tiran. The encirclement of Israel was complete when King Ḥussein of Jordan, despite secret Israeli pleas, felt compelled to join the Arab war coalition.

  In reaction, Eshkol mobilized the IDF and sent his foreign minister, Abba Eban (Eban, Abba), on a futile trip to seek French, British, and American aid. After Rabin suffered a breakdown from exhaustion, the coalition parties forced Eshkol to appoint Moshe Dayan as defense minister and to create a national unity government that included Menachem Begin, the main opposition leader. The next day, June 5, Israeli planes destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground in a preemptive strike that began the total rout of all Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian forces. Israeli troops captured huge quantities of arms and took many prisoners. Six days later, Israeli troops stood victorious along the Suez Canal, having overrun the Sinai Peninsula; on the banks of the Jordan River, after occupying the entire West Bank; and atop the Golan Heights, after driving the Syrians from that strategic position. Most significant to all involved, Israel had captured the remaining sections of Jerusalem not already under its control, including the Old City and the Western Wall.

Troubled victory
      Israel's triumph in the Six-Day War (the name by which this conflict became known) brought the entire biblical land of Israel under Jewish control, but the war also brought new complications: rule over more than one million additional Palestinians in the occupied territories; extended military lines along the Suez Canal, the Golan Heights, and the Jordan River that severely strained its small standing army; and strong international opposition to the expansion of Israeli control, especially the absorption of the Old City of Jerusalem. Protesting Israel's surprise attack, French President Charles de Gaulle (Gaulle, Charles de) imposed an arms embargo on Israel, depriving the air force of its only source for advanced warplanes. This situation was resolved when the United States agreed to supply Israel with U.S. fighters to replace the French planes.

      It was not clear how military victory could be turned into peace. Shortly after the war's end Israel began that quest, but it would take more than a decade and involve yet another war before yielding any results. Eshkol's secret offer to trade much of the newly won territory for peace agreements with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria was rejected by Nasser, who, supported by an emergency resupply of Soviet arms, led the Arabs at the Khartoum Arab Summit in The Sudan (Sudan, The) in August 1967 in a refusal to negotiate directly with Israel. The UN Security Council responded by passing Resolution 242 in November, demanding that Israel withdraw from “occupied territories” and that all parties in the dispute recognize the right of residents of each state to live within “secure and recognized borders.” The wording of this statement became crucial to peace negotiations for years to come. By not stating “all the occupied territories” in the English version—the only one accepted by Israel—the resolution left room for the Israelis to negotiate. The Palestinians, the residents of these territories, were mentioned only as refugees, it being presumed that Jordan would represent them.

      Nearly two years of fruitless mediation ensued while Israel held the occupied territories with a minimum of force, relied on its air power to deter Arab attack, and—adhering to Dayan's light-handed occupation policy—disturbed the Palestinian population under military rule as little as possible. The Israelis left the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the local Arab institutions, and indeed the Jordanian legal code throughout the West Bank in the hands of the Palestinians, just as they left Egyptian regulations in place in Gaza.

      The Israeli and Palestinian economies were to develop strong links over the next decades, as the underemployed Arab workforce in the occupied territories gravitated to Israeli industries that were chronically short of unskilled labour. Eventually more than 150,000 workers would make the daily commute to Israel, returning to the West Bank and Gaza at night. While the export of Israeli goods to the occupied territories became lucrative, it formed but a small part of the economic exchange between the two sides.

      Meanwhile, the Israeli government moved to reclaim areas in the newly occupied territories that had been settled by Jews before 1948, including the Etzion Bloc, an Israeli community on the approach to Jerusalem that had been lost to Jordan after heavy fighting during Israel's war of independence. After the Arabs rejected a quick peace, Yigal Allon, a leading Labour politician and a hero of the 1948 war, devised a plan to settle Jews in strategic areas of the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai, and the Golan Heights. Israel also enlarged the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and developed new neighbourhoods in order to establish a Jewish majority in the capital; and in the Old City, the government reconstructed the historic Jewish quarter. However, except for East Jerusalem, where the Jewish population increased dramatically in the years of Labour dominance, by 1977 only about 5,000 Israelis lived in these so-called strategic settlements. Other Israelis, guided by the prominent Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, believed that settlement everywhere in the biblical land of Israel would hasten the messianic era. Israelis of this mind established the Gush Emunim (“Bloc of Believers”) organization in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1968.

The war of attrition
 In early 1969 Egypt began what became known as the “war of attrition” against Israel. Using heavy artillery, new MiG aircraft, Soviet advisers, and an advanced Soviet-designed surface-to-air missile system, the Egyptians inflicted heavy losses on the Israelis. Golda Meir (Meir, Golda), who became Israel's prime minister following Eshkol's sudden death in February 1969, escalated the war by ordering massive air raids deep into Egypt. These raids were suspended, however, after the Soviet pilots began to fly combat patrols over parts of Egypt, and the battle shifted to the canal zone. Israel was also beset by guerrilla raids from Jordan, launched by Yāsir ʿArafāt (Arafāt, Yāsirʿ)'s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). These attacks were often on nonmilitary targets, and Israel soon stamped the PLO as a terrorist (terrorism) organization and refused to negotiate with it.

      U.S. President Richard Nixon (Nixon, Richard M.) feared an eventual Israeli confrontation with Moscow and sent Secretary of State William Rogers to intervene with a complex cease-fire proposal, which was accepted by Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in August 1970. This plan specified limits on the deployment of missiles and revived a year-old diplomatic initiative (the Rogers Plan) that insisted on an exchange of territory for peace on all fronts.

      The Egyptians and Soviets soon violated the agreement by moving their missiles closer to the canal. In Jordan, Ḥussein's acceptance of the cease-fire ignited savage fighting between the Jordanian army and several PLO militia groups. As the battles intensified, Syria sent tanks to aid the Palestinians, but coordinated Israeli, American, and Jordanian military moves defeated the Syrians and expelled the PLO, whose forces sought refuge in Lebanon.

      Meir's gamble had succeeded: Israel's willingness to risk confrontation, even with Soviet pilots along the canal, had strengthened relations with the United States. Ḥussein's recovery of control in Jordan demoralized Palestinian resistance while securing Israel's eastern border. When Nasser died in September 1970, his successor, Anwar el-Sādāt (Sādāt, Anwar el-), did not renew the fighting, seeking instead a partial Israeli pullback from the Suez Canal. Israel eventually rejected this idea, but the crisis had passed.

The decline of Labour dominance
The Yom Kippur War (Arab-Israeli wars)
 On October 6, 1973—the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur—Egyptian and Syrian forces staged a surprise attack on Israeli forces situated on the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights. Israeli confidence in its early warning systems and air superiority was misplaced, and Egyptian missiles were soon taking a heavy toll of Israeli warplanes. The intensity of the Egyptian and Syrian assault, so unlike the situation in 1967, rapidly began to exhaust Israel's reserve stocks of munitions.

      With Israel threatened by catastrophe, Prime Minister Meir turned to the United States for aid, while the Israeli general staff hastily improvised a battle strategy. Washington's reluctance to help Israel changed rapidly when the Soviet Union launched its own resupply effort to Egypt and Syria. President Nixon countered by establishing an emergency supply line to Israel, even though the Arab nations imposed a costly oil embargo, and various American allies refused to facilitate the arms shipments.

      With reinforcements on the way, the IDF rapidly turned the tide. A daring Israeli helicopter assault disabled portions of the Egyptian air defenses, which allowed Israeli forces commanded by General Ariel Sharon (Sharon, Ariel) to cross the Suez Canal and threaten to destroy the Egyptian Third Army. On the Golan, Israeli troops, at heavy cost, repulsed the Syrians and advanced to the edge of the Golan plateau on the road to Damascus. At this point, the United States, alarmed by Soviet threats of direct military intervention and on nuclear alert, secured a cease-fire in place.

Political and social repercussions of the war
      Egypt " Sādāt persuaded U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Kissinger, Henry A.) that his country was ready to abandon both its Soviet and Syrian allies for a fresh start with the United States; only Washington, in Sādāt's view, could effectively influence Israel to return the Sinai without further bloodshed. Kissinger, supported by Nixon, successfully pressured Israel to end the war short of a complete Egyptian military defeat and then, through intensive travel between the various capitals—what soon was being called shuttle diplomacy—achieved disengagement agreements on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts during 1974. This became known as the “step by step” process, which was intended to fulfill the intent of Security Council Resolution 242 that territory be exchanged for peace.

      Golda Meir's government resigned in April 1974, exhausted and discredited by the war. Still, the Labour Party won a narrow election victory in June by selecting Yitzhak Rabin (Rabin, Yitzhak), hero of the 1967 war and former Israeli ambassador to Washington, to lead its list. The first native-born Israeli to become prime minister, Rabin predicted a period of “seven lean years” until the West, including the United States, would end its heavy dependence on Arab oil. He argued that Israel therefore needed to trade space for time, to coordinate closely with Washington, and to encourage Egypt's new pro-American policy.

      Rabin reached a second disengagement agreement with Egypt in September 1975, but little progress was made with Syria. On what had been the “quiet” front—the West Bank and Gaza—the Labour government's preferred strategy of negotiations with the more amenable King Ḥussein of Jordan (the so-called “Jordanian option”) was threatened in October 1974, when an Arab summit conference in Rabat, Morocco, declared ʿArafāt's (Arafāt, Yāsirʿ) PLO to be the sole representative of the Palestinians. A year later, Rabin obtained secret assurances from Kissinger that the United States would not recognize the PLO as an entity representing the Palestinians unless that organization first ceased terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist.

      Meanwhile, the Gush Emunim movement on the West Bank gathered force after the Yom Kippur War and between 1974 and 1987 planted small communities near large Arab populations, greatly complicating Israeli policy and arousing international opposition. The secular Israeli government opposed such efforts but rarely used force to dislodge the settlers, who invoked Zionist rights to the homeland in their defense. Still, they numbered fewer than 4,000 when the opposition Likud government of Menachem Begin came to power in 1977.

Diplomatic impasse
      The Yom Kippur War left the country in bad economic shape. An accelerating rate of inflation just before the conflict was suddenly combined with a stagnant economy; prices continued to rise even as demand and production fell. The international recession reduced demand for Israeli exports, and, for the first time in years, unemployment became a problem. On top of this, Israel became heavily indebted by arms purchases—partially offset by U.S. aid—and the country's international status suffered. One by one, most of Israel's carefully cultivated African friends broke relations under the threat of Arab oil sanctions, leaving the Jewish state alone with an equally isolated South Africa. Further complicating the situation for Israel, the UN General Assembly (General Assembly, United Nations) passed Resolution 3379 in 1975, which equated Zionism with racism, and the PLO gained increasing European and Asian support. Meanwhile, Rabin was losing political ground at home, harmed by infighting and corruption. Even the remarkable success of Israel's July 1976 raid at the Entebbe, Uganda, airport—in which commandos rescued the Israeli passengers of an Air France plane hijacked by German and Palestinian terrorists—was of little help. The former general, new to politics, found it difficult to dominate a cabinet in which his chief rival, Shimon Peres (Peres, Shimon), was defense minister, and few others owed him any political allegiance.

      A further blow to Rabin fell when he visited Washington in March 1977 to meet with the new American president, Jimmy Carter (Carter, Jimmy), who advocated a "comprehensive approach" to Middle East peace instead of the Kissinger step-by-step plan. Carter sought an international conference to resolve all the major issues between Israel and the Arabs and advocated a “homeland” for the Palestinians. For Israelis, this notion (and its similarity to the wording of the Balfour Declaration) was a code word for a Palestinian state, and they hotly opposed it—not least because it also implied a leadership role for the PLO. Rabin, facing a major quarrel with the United States and beset by a personal scandal (his wife had maintained an illegal bank account in Washington from his days as ambassador), resigned in April, and Shimon Peres became Labour's new party leader.

Israel under Likud
      To general surprise, the Likud Party, led by Menachem Begin (Begin, Menachem), won the May 1977 election, inaugurating the first non-Labour-led government in Israel's history. Begin's campaign benefited immensely from Sephardic resentment over the patronizing attitude of the Labour establishment and its treatment of non-European Jewish immigrants as second-class citizens. The Sephardim supported Likud in large numbers. In addition, a new “clean government” party drew votes from Labour, and its leader, Yigael Yadin (Yadin, Yigael), an eminent archaeologist and a hero of the 1948 war, joined the cabinet. Also included in Begin's cabinet were Ezer Weizman, an air force commander in 1967 and architect of the Likud political strategy, and, to the shock of many Labourites, Moshe Dayan, who agreed to become foreign minister. Begin also attracted the National Religious Party to his coalition.

The beginning of the peace process
      Begin strongly opposed any territorial compromise on the West Bank, which, like many Israelis, he felt to be an inalienable part of Israel—the historic Samaria and Judea (Judaea). He also argued that Resolution 242 did not require withdrawal from this area. The new Israeli leader put off a crisis with Washington by discarding Rabin's notion of “coordination” and declared simply that Israel wanted to sit down with its neighbours to negotiate peace. Meanwhile, Begin inaugurated a policy to strengthen Israel's hold on the West Bank through an extensive settlement program overseen by Ariel Sharon (Sharon, Ariel), the minister of agriculture.

      Carter spent the summer in futile efforts to convene an international conference, finally approving a Soviet-American communiqué in October 1977 that was intended to stimulate diplomacy; instead, it outraged both Israel and the U.S. Congress, many of whose members condemned Carter for concessions to Moscow. These mishaps convinced Sādāt (Sādāt, Anwar el-) that American tactics were giving his erstwhile Soviet and Syrian allies a veto over any diplomacy, which could lead to a new war in which Egypt would likely pay the highest price. Secret negotiations were held between Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Sādāt's personal representatives, after which the Egyptian president surprised the world by flying to a delighted Israel in November 1977, where he and Begin addressed the Israeli Knesset.

      The two leaders could not agree, however, on the details of a comprehensive peace, and the negotiations were complicated by events in Lebanon. Following its eviction from Jordan in 1971, the PLO had established itself there, exacerbating the volatile political situation in that country and contributing to its collapse into civil war in 1975. Both Israel and the United States had reluctantly consented to Syria's military intervention in Lebanon that same year, but the result was a partitioned state with the PLO dominating the south of the country, which was now a launching point for terror (terrorism) attacks against Israelis living in the Upper Galilee. In March 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon to drive the PLO away from the border but succeeded only partially in this goal before withdrawing from that country, under international pressure, in June. This episode strengthened Israel's ties with a Lebanese Christian militia known as the Phalange, who benefited from Israeli weapons and training.

 The faltering Egyptian-Israeli negotiations were finally rescued when Carter convened a summit at the presidential retreat of Camp David, Maryland, in September 1978. In this secluded site—an “elegant jail,” Begin (Begin, Menachem) called it—Carter shuttled between the two leaders over a 12-day period, and out of these negotiations emerged the Camp David Accords. The accords were a framework for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab states based on Resolution 242 and called for all the parties to complete peace treaties under its principles. Rather than giving the Palestinians full independence, the accords offered them Begin's concept of autonomy, which provided for five years of limited Palestinian self-government to be followed by talks on final status between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian joint negotiating team.

      The Camp David Accords earned Sādāt and Begin each a share of the 1978 Nobel Prize for Peace, but the subsequent peace process proved far more difficult than the parties expected. It took seven more months for Egypt and Israel to reach a final agreement, which was signed on March 26, 1979, and called for a three-year phased Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, limited-force zones, a multinational observer force, full diplomatic relations between the two countries, and special provisions for Israeli access to the Sinai's oil fields. The United States also agreed to provide large amounts of financial aid to both Israel and Egypt, part of which paid for the relocation of Israeli military installations. Israel's settlements in the Sinai were also evacuated, despite public Israeli protests.

      Syria, Iraq, and the PLO were outraged by Egypt's actions and joined diplomatic forces to suspend Cairo from the Arab League and prevent any other Arab state from supporting the accords. Nearly all the Arab states subsequently severed ties with Egypt. Jordan and the Palestinians refused to negotiate autonomy, and a three-year attempt by Israel, Egypt, and the United States to develop the plan on their own came to naught. Meanwhile, Begin refused to halt the building of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A cold peace
      Thus, “seven lean years” after the Yom Kippur War and three decades after independence, Israel had reached peace with Egypt, the Soviets were sidelined, and the Jewish state's alliance with the United States was consolidated. However, trouble loomed, as a civil war in Lebanon allowed an increasingly well-armed PLO to raid Israel's northern border. Israel had also begun to fear a military buildup in Iraq, especially its potential for producing nuclear weapons. Nor was the cabinet happy. Both Weizman and Dayan resigned from it, charging that the prime minister did not want to settle the Palestinian issue. The Begin government had also been much less successful in its domestic policies, and the economy, after a brief recovery in 1978–79, entered another inflationary spiral.

      Israel faced a complex agenda in dealing with the United States when Ronald Reagan (Reagan, Ronald W.) replaced Jimmy Carter as president in 1981. Reagan and his first secretary of state, Alexander Haig, both strong supporters of Israel, promoted a strategic alliance with the Jewish state, but the effort was soon beset by quarrels over the U.S. sale of sophisticated air surveillance aircraft, known as AWACS, to Saudi Arabia. When Israel destroyed Iraq's French-built Osirak nuclear reactor in a daring raid in June, Washington reluctantly supported a UN condemnation of Israel's action.

      Begin's policies aroused strong international opposition but aided his victory over Shimon Peres in the June 1981 elections. His new government contained more Likud appointees, including Yitzhak Shamir as foreign minister and Ariel Sharon as defense minister. Then, on October 6, 1981, Sādāt was murdered by Muslim extremists. His successor, Hosnī Mubārak (Mubārak, Hosnī), reaffirmed the 1979 treaty but was prepared only for a "cold" peace with Israel, and few of the bright hopes for trade and tourism promised by the Camp David agreements materialized—even after Israel completed its withdrawal from the Sinai in April 1982.

War in Lebanon
      Begin again turned to Lebanon, where he was determined to defeat the PLO. In July 1981, fearing an Israeli-Syrian clash in Lebanon, the United States had brokered an ambiguous cease-fire, during which the PLO continued to amass heavy arms. Cautioned by Haig not to attack unless there was an “internationally recognized provocation,” Begin ordered the bombing of PLO positions in June 1982 after members of a PLO splinter group attempted to assassinate Israel's ambassador to Britain. The PLO retaliated with a rocket barrage on Israel's northern border towns, whereupon Israel launched a new invasion of southern Lebanon. The Israeli cabinet authorized a limited operation, and Begin made it clear that IDF troops were not to advance farther than 25 miles (40 km) beyond the Lebanese border. But Sharon had more ambitious plans. Even as Reagan's special envoy, Philip Habib (Habib, Philip Charles), attempted to prevent an Israeli-Syrian clash, Israeli jets destroyed Syrian antiaircraft missiles in Lebanon. This strategic surprise attack was followed by a short but violent series of ground skirmishes and two days of aerial combat that cost Syria some 100 aircraft.

      Sharon sent the IDF toward Beirut and well beyond the mandated 25-mile limit. With the Syrians in retreat, Israeli troops besieged ʿArafāt and his remaining PLO units in the Lebanese capital. Israel's Maronite Christian allies, the Phalange Party, contrary to Sharon's expectations, did not act to secure the city as they had been expected to do, and a dangerous stalemate ensued. The pro-Israel Haig was forced from office, as a bewildered and angry Reagan, reinforced by U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, sought an Israeli withdrawal. Habib, working under the direction of Haig's successor, George Shultz, managed to insert a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon that allowed ʿArafāt and a portion of his force to evacuate Beirut in August, following a final Israeli bombardment.

      The Lebanese Christians, however, were not to benefit from the Israeli actions. Phalange leader Bashir Gemayel, the new president-elect, was assassinated by Syrian agents in September, and in the ensuing disorders, Israeli forces allowed the Phalangist militia into two Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, where they massacred hundreds of men, women, and children. The multinational force, withdrawn quickly after ʿArafāt's departure, was reinserted.

      Shortly before the massacres, President Reagan had announced a plan for Arab-Israeli peace that pointedly applied the Resolution 242 formula to the Palestinian issue. The plan was designed, in part, to appease Arab anger and to revive the Jordanian option, but it was rejected by an Arab summit and hotly opposed by an alarmed Begin. However, the embattled prime minister did not have much time left. An official Israeli inquiry condemned Sharon for negligence in the camp massacres, forcing him to resign. Grieving over Israeli losses and the operation's tragic outcome, Israelis mounted massive street demonstrations against the Begin government.

 Under U.S. mediation, Israel and Lebanon reached a nonbelligerence agreement in May 1983, and Israeli troops withdrew from the Beirut area. An ailing Begin, devastated by his wife's death and the war's outcome, resigned in September and retreated into a reclusive retirement, dying in 1992. He was replaced by Yitzhak Shamir (Shamir, Yitzḥak). On October 23, 1983, a suicide bomber from the radical Shīʿite Muslim organization Hezbollah blew up the U.S. Marine headquarters at the Beirut airport, which was part of the international peacekeeping force, killing 241. Within a few weeks, Reagan began withdrawing American forces, and after they had left, the Syrians and their local allies forced Lebanon to renounce the agreement with Israel.

The national unity government
      Labour outpolled the Likud in the 1984 election, but not by a margin sufficient to form a government. To rescue the economy and extricate Israel from its military entanglement in Lebanon, Labour and Likud formed a national unity government in September, giving the premiership to Peres for 25 months, at the end of which the premiership would go to Shamir, with the understanding that the other would take the position of deputy prime minister of foreign affairs. Notably, Rabin was to be defense minister for both men.

      Under Peres, the Israelis began a phased withdrawal from Lebanon in June 1985, except for a security zone where an Israeli-sponsored Lebanese force waged intermittent warfare against the Hezbollah, who enjoyed Iranian and Syrian patronage. An economic recovery plan also was put into place, assisted by the United States. For the first time, Israel began to reform its economic structures, which until then had been controlled by the state and the labour federation, Histadrut.

      As stipulated by the rotation agreement, Shamir became prime minister in October 1986, with Peres as foreign minister. Determined to regain the top spot through a diplomatic breakthrough, Peres met secretly with Jordan's King Ḥussein. The two reached an understanding known as the London Agreement in April 1987, but the agreement's vague formulations did not command a majority of votes in the unity cabinet, and Shamir retained control.

      Shamir continued the Begin policy of settling Jews throughout the West Bank, hoping to isolate the Arab towns and villages that might form the basis for a Palestinian state. Few Israelis responded to this initiative until Sharon, who returned to Shamir's cabinet as housing minister, began subsidizing residential communities that were within easy commuting distance of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where housing was scarce and expensive. By 1992 the Jewish population in the occupied territories was approaching 100,000.

The intifāḍah
      The Begin (Begin, Menachem) and Shamir governments had gradually abandoned Moshe Dayan's old policy of leaving the Palestinians alone. By late 1987 the combined effects of settlement expansion, bureaucratic encroachment, land seizures, several years of economic stagnation, and the diplomatic stalemate had set the stage for an Arab rebellion in the West Bank and Gaza that quickly became known as the intifāḍah (Arabic: “shaking off”). This uprising was distinguished by widespread street violence in which children and teenagers battled Israeli troops with rocks and stones.

      The Israeli military was caught by surprise and proved ill-equipped to deal with the revolt. A grinding contest of wills ensued that soon claimed many civilian casualties and altered the political landscape. In February 1988 Shamir invited Secretary of State Shultz to intervene, but he tried in vain to revive the diplomatic process. Meanwhile, King Ḥussein had finally abandoned his formal ambition to represent the Palestinians. Israel's international image was suffering as the media recorded scenes of Israeli soldiers beating young Palestinians in the street. Frequent closures of the areas also severely disrupted the Palestinian economy, and Israel began to replace Arab day labour with immigrant workers from outside the region.

      The Israeli election in November 1988 gave Likud a slight majority. Shamir was still forming a government when in December ʿArafāt (Arafāt, Yāsirʿ), speaking at a special UN meeting in Geneva, reiterated a declaration that he had made the previous month that he was ready to recognize Israel and suspend terrorism provided the Palestinians obtained a state. The United States promptly recognized the PLO and opened a dialogue with it.

The question of Palestinian autonomy
      This stunning event led Shamir to form another national unity government, with Rabin again as defense minister and Peres as finance minister. Rabin was convinced that Israel needed a political initiative to end the intifāḍah and deflect the PLO. He persuaded Shamir to revive the Camp David-era autonomy plan, but this time it was stripped of its Jordanian component and aimed specifically at the Palestinians. Israel was also facing a new U.S. administration, led by President George Bush (Bush, George), that was determined to restrict Israeli settlement expansion. Efforts by the United States to create an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation on autonomy, however, were rejected by Shamir, who insisted that the Palestinian negotiating team be drawn exclusively from residents of Gaza and the West Bank and not from Jerusalem or the PLO. Peres thereupon resigned from the unity government, only to be outmaneuvered by Shamir, who formed a Likud-dominated coalition that excluded Labour. The prime minister decided to ride out the intifāḍah while concentrating on a sudden breakthrough with the Soviet Union: as part of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Gorbachev, Mikhail)'s reforms, a massive number of Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel, the exodus continuing after the Russian Federation was created in the early 1990s. Included among the hundreds of thousands of new arrivals were many highly trained doctors, engineers, and scientists.

The Gulf War (Persian Gulf War) and the Madrid Conference
      The stalemated Arab-Israeli conflict was soon overshadowed by a crisis in the Persian Gulf, when the army of Iraqi leader Ṣaddām Ḥussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990. As the United States dispatched troops to Saudi Arabia and organized an international coalition against the Iraqi invasion, Ṣaddām (Ṣaddām Ḥussein) attempted to stir up Arab antagonism against Israel. He found ready support among the Palestinians in Jordan and elsewhere, including an endorsement by PLO head ʿArafāt.

      The United States greatly feared that its focus on Iraqi aggression would be diverted by Arab grievances against Israel, and when the American-led coalition's attack was launched, Washington urged Israel not to respond to Iraqi provocations, even after Iraqi forces began missile attacks on Israeli cities. Accepting U.S. air-defense missiles, Israel held its fire while the coalition devastated the Jewish state's most dangerous Arab opponent. Meanwhile, the Persian Gulf states cut off their previously substantial financial support for the PLO.

      Iraq's defeat and the rapid decline of the Soviet Union in 1991 suddenly opened the way for fresh diplomatic initiatives. U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (Baker, James Addison, III) succeeded in convening an Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid in October 1991, the first direct official talks between Israel and its neighbours since the Camp David era. Three “tracks” were created under U.S. auspices that sought to achieve peace treaties between Israel and Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria; an interim Palestinian self-government for Gaza and the West Bank (the Palestinian team this time met the Israeli specifications); and European, Japanese, and Arab support for regional economic cooperation and arms control.

      The talks, conducted in various locations, stalled after a promising start. The Palestinians demanded statehood rather than autonomy, and Shamir was not interested in reaching quick agreements. The Israeli leader remained faithful to his strategy of outlasting the other side while continuing to construct Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. However, Shamir's policy was hotly contested by the United States, and Bush refused Shamir's request for housing-loan guarantees to accommodate Russian immigrants unless Israel stopped expanding the settlements.

      The Labour opposition, sensing an opportunity, put up Rabin as their candidate for prime minister in the elections of June 1992. He promised security but also flexibility, insisting that he would produce progress in the negotiations. He also proposed that less be spent on settlements and more on help for Russian immigrants. In a hard-fought election, the Labour Party won a narrow advantage.

The Rabin (Rabin, Yitzhak) government
 Rabin established greater control in this premiership than in his earlier one by keeping the defense portfolio to himself and appointing a negotiating team that reported to him rather than to Peres, his foreign minister. His coalition was delicately balanced between left and right and relied on a Sephardic religious party, Shas, to offset the strongly antireligious Meretz Party.

      Rabin criticized the comprehensive approach implicit in the Madrid talks, concluding that the Palestinian-Israeli track held more promise for progress because both Israelis and Palestinians wanted to move beyond the status quo of the intifāḍah. To stimulate diplomacy and to patch up relations with the United States, he ordered a freeze on the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, which allowed the Bush administration to approve housing guarantees for Russian immigrants. (In fact, some previously planned construction continued in the territories, and the settler population grew from 100,000 to 135,000 during Rabin's term.)

      Unexpectedly, the negotiations with Syria came to life first, but after an encouraging start they had deadlocked by the summer of 1993. Syria refused to specify what it meant by “full peace,” a key Israeli requirement; and Israel refused to withdraw to the armistice lines as they were prior to the 1967 war, which would have effectively placed the border with Syria on Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), Israel's largest source of fresh water.

The Oslo Accords
      Meanwhile, Peres had been nurturing a secret negotiating track with the Palestinians through Norwegian diplomacy. The PLO officials conducting the so-called unofficial discussions in Oslo, Norway, were far more flexible than the official non-PLO Palestinian delegation in Washington, and Rabin decided to gamble that ʿArafāt was the only Palestinian leader who could conceivably deliver peace. ʿArafāt also gambled. He was short of money after alienating his main financial backers during the Gulf War and faced challenges to his leadership from Islamic groups, whose influence had grown significantly in the occupied territories during the intifāḍah. He accepted the idea of Palestinian autonomy in order to at last obtain a foothold in Palestine.

The Declaration of Principles and Cairo Agreement
      In September 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles on Palestinian Self-Rule, the first agreement between the two sides and the initial document in what became generally known as the Oslo Accords. While the United States had not been aware of the seriousness of the discussions in Oslo, both Rabin and ʿArafāt were happy to embrace U.S. President Bill Clinton (Clinton, Bill) on the White House lawn in September 1993, in support of their deal. A visibly reluctant Rabin consented to shake ʿArafāt's hand.

      The Oslo Accords, in fact, comprised a series of agreements, the second of which, the Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho, was signed in May 1994. This pact enacted the provisions set forth in the original declaration, which had endorsed a five-year interim self-rule for a Palestinian authority to be executed in two stages: first in Gaza and the city of Jericho and then, after an election, throughout the remaining areas under Israeli military rule. Talks on final status were to begin after three years, with a two-year deadline for an agreement to be reached. Issues such as borders, the return of refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and Jewish settlements in the occupied territories were reserved for final status talks. The PLO recognized Israel's right to exist, renounced terrorism, and agreed to change the portions of its charter that called for Israel's destruction. Israel recognized the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.

      The accords embodied two basic sets of exchanges. First, Israel would shed responsibility for the Palestinian population while retaining strategic control of the territory. The Palestinians would be rid of Israeli military rule and gain self-government, potentially leading to statehood. Second, ʿArafāt's disavowal of violence and his pledge to fight terrorism—through the use of a domestic Palestinian police force—would improve Israel's security. The Palestinians would benefit from the large amount of foreign aid it would receive from the United States and other countries and from economic agreements made with Israel that were designed to foster employment and trade.

Challenges to peace
      Rabin's decision aroused enormous opposition from the Likud and most settlers, although the majority of Israelis at first strongly supported him, especially since the agreement enabled Israel to rid itself of the tumultuous Gaza Strip. In October 1994, Jordan also signed a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, and many other Arab states, including the smaller Persian Gulf emirates, began to discard the old taboos about contact with the Jewish state.

      Not all Palestinians, however, favoured ʿArafāt's course. The Islamic group, Ḥamās, which was especially strong in Gaza, violently opposed the Oslo Accords and launched a series of terror attacks on Israeli civilians, killing scores between 1993 and 1997. Rabin retaliated with border closures that prevented tens of thousands of Palestinian workers living in the occupied territories from commuting to jobs in Israel. Some Israelis sought revenge, such as the murder in February 1994 of some three dozen Arabs at prayer in Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs by an Israeli settler. Despite Israeli protests, ʿArafāt sought to co-opt rather than repress Ḥamās. Israel therefore continued its own antiterrorism war, and two Ḥamās leaders were assassinated in 1994–95, one in Gaza itself.

Economic boom
      Peace diplomacy bolstered what had already been a period of strong economic expansion in Israel. Austerity during the 1980s had wrung out bad debt and inefficiency at considerable cost. Many kibbutzim, deprived of cheap credit and a subsidized water supply, had either failed or shifted from agriculture to light industry. Koor Industries Ltd., Histadrut's industrial holding company, had itself fallen on hard times and defaulted on a number of loans before it was restructured. The Israeli government still controlled half the economy, but the earlier socialist ideology, once the mainstay of Israeli politics, was clearly on the wane.

      In the late 1980s the Israeli economy was buoyed by the influx of highly skilled Russian immigrants, a competitive high-technology sector, and the country's proximity to the European market. In the period 1990–95, Israel's rate of economic growth exceeded 5 percent annually, unemployment was cut nearly in half, and the annual inflation rate dropped from double to single digits. Foreign investment turned from a trickle into a flood, as Israeli exports to Asia also registered large increases and the Arab boycott eased.

      By 1996 Israel's GNP was greater than that of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon combined, and its per capita income was approaching European standards. All this made Israel an economic powerhouse in the region and allowed its leaders to look at a future of decreasing dependence on economic aid from the United States.

Oslo II and Rabin's assassination
      In September 1995, Rabin, ʿArafāt, and Peres, all newly named winners of the Nobel Prize for Peace, assembled again on the White House lawn to sign the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip (often called Oslo II). This detailed and long-delayed agreement established a schedule for Israeli withdrawals from the Palestinian population centres (to be implemented in several stages) and created a complex system of zones that were divided between areas fully controlled by the Palestinians, those under Palestinian civil authority but Israeli military control, and those exclusively under Israeli control. It also set elections for a president and council of the Palestinian Authority, which would govern the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.

      Although Oslo I had received strong parliamentary support, Oslo II was ratified by only one vote in the Knesset, signaling a significant loss of support for Rabin. Many Israelis were angry over ʿArafāt's erratic cooperation on security, and others, especially the Likud—now led by Israel's former ambassador to the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu (Netanyahu, Benjamin)—hotly opposed withdrawals or further dealings with ʿArafāt. Meanwhile, the Sephardic Shas Party had left the coalition in protest over the indictment of its parliamentary leader for fraud. Bereft of his coalition's balance, Rabin had to depend on the vote of the Israeli Arab members of the Knesset for his majority. He was also battered by demands from the Meretz Party and from Conservative and Reform Jews in the United States to loosen the Orthodox religious monopoly established in the early years of the state.

      Shortly after Oslo II was passed in the Knesset, Rabin decided on a public campaign to rally his supporters, and it was following the first such rally in Tel Aviv in November 1995 that he was assassinated by a Jewish religious fanatic. Israelis were horrified, and after a funeral attended by many international leaders, including Arabs, a round of soul-searching and recriminations began. Popular Israeli support for the peace process surged, and with the Likud on the defensive, Shimon Peres, Rabin's successor as prime minister, proceeded with Oslo II. By early 1996 nearly all the Palestinians were under self-rule; Israeli forces, though withdrawn from the major towns except Hebron, still controlled most of the occupied territories. In January, ʿArafāt easily won election as president of the Palestinian Authority. The voters also selected a Palestinian Council, although its powers were ill-defined. Peres also sought to accelerate an Israeli-Syrian deal but soon concluded that such an agreement could not be reached quickly, if at all.

A new political landscape
      Peres had hoped to capitalize on sympathy for Rabin and chose to hold early elections in 1996. His campaign was quickly upset by a series of Ḥamās suicide attacks against civilians that shocked and angered Israelis. The United States convened an international antiterrorist conference in March to support Peres, but the prime minister lacked Rabin's security credentials and had been an outspoken advocate of partnership with ʿArafāt. Peres reacted to Hezbollah attacks along the Lebanese border by ordering a massive artillery bombardment of southern Lebanon that mistakenly hit a UN outpost sheltering hundreds of civilians, which damaged his standing among Israeli Arabs. In addition, Labour had lost popularity among religious voters because of its alliance with Meretz.

The Netanyahu premiership
 The May elections were the first held under a new law that allowed separate ballots for prime minister and the Knesset, which was designed to reduce the ability of smaller parties to exact concessions when governments were formed. However, this law had the opposite result: it created a quasi-presidential regime that still depended on an increasingly fractured parliament. Peres narrowly lost to Netanyahu, who promised that he would be tougher on ʿArafāt than Peres had been. In the Knesset, however, both Labour and Likud unexpectedly lost ground, while the smaller parties, especially the religious bloc, gained large numbers of seats. An ethnic Russian party, Yisrael BʾAliyah, led by the celebrated Soviet-era dissident Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky (Shcharansky, Anatoly), also won seats. The growth of the Shas Party and the emergence of a Russian ethnic bloc offered compelling evidence not only of their grievances against previous governments but of the failure of the major political parties to integrate these constituencies.

      Netanyahu, age 46, the first Israeli prime minister born after the founding of the state, promised to accelerate economic reforms, especially the sale of state-owned businesses, but he was quickly confronted by labour union opposition, a slowing economy, and a large budget deficit. He had been a severe critic of the Oslo Accords but, after Rabin's murder, had promised to fix the agreements by insisting on Palestinian “reciprocity” (i.e., strict adherence to the terms). Nonetheless, Netanyahu could not bring himself to meet ʿArafāt until September 1996 and raised doubts over his willingness to proceed with the promised Israeli withdrawal from Hebron and other unfinished aspects of Oslo II.

Crisis in the peace process
      ʿArafāt had finally acted against Ḥamās in the spring and summer of 1996, but Israel's surprise opening of an archaeological tunnel exit at the north end of the Western Wall in Jerusalem in September 1996 allowed ʿArafāt to play on Palestinian fears that the tunnel was a threat to Al-Aqṣā Mosque. Another violent round of protests ensued, in which Palestinian police fired on Israeli soldiers, killing more than a dozen, while some 60 Arabs died. Clinton, fearing the end of the peace process, called an emergency summit in the White House, after which the Israeli prime minister warmly shook ʿArafāt's hand for the cameras. Netanyahu refused to close the tunnel, but he pledged an accelerated effort to negotiate an agreement on the West Bank city of Hebron, which was reached in January 1997.

      Netanyahu's cabinet narrowly approved the Hebron Agreement. Part of the price for this action became clear when Israel began constructing a long-planned but often delayed Jewish neighbourhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which would effectively cut off the Arab villages on the eastern side of the city from the rest of the West Bank. ʿArafāt held his protest of this project until the cabinet's decision on the first of three projected Israeli withdrawals in March. When these withdrawals turned out to be far less significant than ʿArafāt had anticipated, the stage was set for another round of protests that quickly escalated into violence. Meanwhile, ʿArafāt released Ḥamās activists from Palestinian jails and suspended security cooperation with Israel. Netanyahu, fearing that his cabinet would not approve any more interim steps, argued that Israel and the Palestinians should begin intensive negotiations to determine the final status of the territories. This proposal was quickly rejected by both ʿArafāt and the United States.

The Wye River Memorandum
      The breakdown of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiation at high levels led the United States to intervene again in early 1998 to end the stalemate. Both sides met in rural Maryland in October, and after intensive negotiations that included President Clinton's active participation produced the Wye River Memorandum. The new agreement restored old Israeli promises (such as the opening of a Palestinian airport and a safe passage route between Gaza and the West Bank) for old Palestinian promises (such as publicly renouncing the PLO Charter's anti-Israel provisions, collecting unauthorized arms, and implementing antiterrorist actions), but its novelty consisted of linking phased Israeli withdrawals to Palestinian actions and greatly enlarging the role of the United States as an active participant in both monitoring and judging the performance of the parties. Wye promised to put two-fifths of the West Bank under partial or total Palestinian control.

      Netanyahu returned from Wye to face growing political trouble. The Bank of Israel had been using high interest rates in a dramatic effort to reduce Israeli inflation. While the policy succeeded overall (the inflation rate was cut by two-thirds) it also precipitated a recession and rising unemployment, which hit hardest in the poorer sectors of society—notably the largely Sephardic residents of the development towns in the south. Concurrently, the government's budget had been reduced, which hampered the prime minister's ability to satisfy the demands of the various coalition members. In early 1999, after a legislative defeat on the budget, Netanyahu called for early elections and soon suspended the Wye agreement.

The Barak gamble
 The May 1999 Israeli election produced an even more fractured Knesset than the one three years earlier. Whereas in 1992, under the old, purely parliamentary system, the two largest parties had between them won 76 of the 120 seats, by 1999 they could command only 45. Labour, renamed One Israel in coalition with two small parties, had the most seats in the Knesset, while Likud, beset by infighting and a stalled economy, was second. The real surprise of the election was the sudden growth of Shas, which now commanded the third-largest number of seats.

      Labour (Israel Labour Party)'s candidate for prime minister was a retired general, Ehud Barak (Barak, Ehud), who triumphed over Netanyahu by a decisive margin. Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israeli history, had promised a renewed drive for peace, economic growth, and resistance to religious demands. He assembled a broad coalition in the Knesset and set about reviving the peace process with both the Palestinians and Syrians with a certain sense of urgency—ʿArafāt had already threatened to declare a Palestinian state unilaterally at the time of the Wye summit, Syrian President Ḥāfiẓ al-Assad (Assad, Ḥafiz al-) was seriously ill (he died in June 2000), and President Clinton wished to achieve a peace agreement before the end of his term in office.

      In Barak's view, new elements existed that made rapid progress toward peace possible on both the Syrian and Palestinian fronts. Like his predecessor, he wanted definitive talks with ʿArafāt about the final status of the territories before vacating much more land, but he encountered heavy resistance to his plans from both foreign and domestic sources. The Palestinians would not agree to abandon the third and final troop withdrawal promised under Oslo II; ʿArafāt (Arafāt, Yāsirʿ) put off the declaration of a Palestinian state but insisted on maximum American intervention and sought the most territory he could recover before the final negotiations. However, he did agree to Barak's deadline of February 15, 2000, to reach a framework agreement, which was to be preceded by another withdrawal. These new arrangements were incorporated in the so-called Wye II agreement, reached in September 1999. None of the deadlines was met.

      As the prime minister expected and ʿArafāt feared, the Syrians suddenly signaled their desire to negotiate in early December. Barak himself traveled to the United States to negotiate with Syrian Foreign Minister Fārūq al-Sharʿ, under Clinton's patronage. A second session in early January 2000, however, ended when Syrian President Assad (Assad, Ḥafiz al-) broke off the talks, raising the old demand that Israel agree to a return to the borders that existed between the two countries before the Six-Day War as a precondition to further negotiations.

      By early March, however, progress again seemed possible on the Syrian front. Assad agreed to a summit with President Clinton at Geneva, but to U.S. and Israeli surprise he yet again insisted on Syria's right to its pre-1967 positions on Lake Tiberias. Neither Barak nor a majority of Israelis would agree to this demand. Barak then carried out his campaign promise to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon, even without an agreement with Syria, to a border demarcated by the UN.

      Barak's willingness to concede to Arab demands and his mishandling of his coalition destroyed his Knesset majority in June. Nonetheless, he decided to attend Clinton's hastily arranged summit at Camp David in July. This last-ditch effort to reach an agreement between ʿArafāt and Barak had been resisted by the Palestinian leader, who stated ahead of time that he could not concede Palestinian rights. This proved to be the case. Barak's unexpected willingness to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians was not reciprocated by ʿArafāt, who on this—as on the issue of the return of refugees—refused to compromise, demanding nothing less than full Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem.

The second intifāḍah
      ʿArafāt returned home from the summit to Palestinian and popular Arab acclaim. He had said “no” to both Israel and the United States. In contrast, Barak's political support evaporated. As he struggled to survive, a new blow fell when the Palestinians erupted in violence following a visit by Likud leader Sharonto the Temple Mount in September to promote Israeli sovereignty over the site. Rioting (riot) by Israeli Arabs further disturbed the situation. As international efforts to restore peace failed, cameras recorded the death of a 12-year-old Arab boy by gunfire in Gaza, and not long thereafter two Israeli soldiers were lynched in the West Bank. By spring 2001, hundreds had been killed, most of them Palestinians. President Clinton made one last attempt to bridge the gap, but neither side accepted his “parameters.”

 The failure of the Camp David summit and the outbreak of what came to be known as the Aqṣā intifāḍah convinced a majority of Israelis that they lacked a partner in ʿArafāt to end the conflict. Barak paid the political price, losing the premiership to Sharon by nearly 25 percent of the vote in elections held in February 2001. Sharon formed a broadly based coalition government.

Harvey Sicherman  The violence continued and escalated, even though Sharon in late 2003 announced a “disengagement plan” that called for Israel to withdraw its soldiers and remove Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. The death of ʿArafāt in late 2004 paved the way for Israel and a more moderate Palestinian leadership to resume negotiations, and a cease-fire was agreed to in early 2005 that reduced significantly the level of violence. Despite considerable opposition to Sharon's disengagement plan within Likud, Israel completed its pullout in September 2005. Sharon by then was weary of party infighting and, with other Likud moderates, formed the centrist Kadima (“Forward”) Party in November. He fell victim to a debilitating stroke in early 2006, just before parliamentary elections, and Ehud Olmert (Olmert, Ehud) became acting prime minister.

      Kadima under Olmert won the largest share of Knesset seats. His stated goals were to withdraw more Israeli troops and settlers from the West Bank and finalize Israel's borders by 2010. However, the unexpected victory by Ḥamās in Palestinian elections earlier in 2006 brought a new uncertainty to Israeli-Palestinian relations, as did the Ḥamās takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Israel recognized the West Bank administration, led by the more moderate Palestinian organization Fatah, as the legitimate Palestinian government and later declared the Gaza Strip under Ḥamās a hostile entity and implemented a series of sanctions. Ḥamās attacks on Israel continued, as did Israeli retaliatory strikes and attacks aimed at Ḥamās militants.

      After months of negotiations, in June 2008 Israel and Ḥamās agreed to implement a truce scheduled to last six months; however, this was threatened shortly thereafter as each accused the other of violations, which escalated in the last months of the agreement. When the truce officially expired on December 19, Ḥamās announced that they did not intend to extend it. Broader hostilities erupted shortly thereafter as Israel, responding to sustained rocket fire, mounted a series of air strikes across the region—among the strongest in years—meant to target Ḥamās. After a week of air strikes, Israeli forces initiated a ground campaign into the Gaza Strip amid calls from the international community for a cease-fire. Following more than three weeks of hostilities—in which perhaps more than 1,000 were killed and tens of thousands left homeless—Israel and Ḥamās each declared a unilateral cease-fire.


A changing society
      At the beginning of the 21st century, Israel was poised on the brink of significant change. At home the Israelis found themselves grappling with both perennial and new problems that included not only the old issue of religion and state and how these institutions relate to Jewish (Judaism) identity but also new pressures to reduce religious influence over personal matters such as marriage and divorce and to allow non-Orthodox rabbis to conduct these and other religious ceremonies—raising the very issue of who may legitimately be called a rabbi. Likewise, Israel faced the question of how to assimilate more than 250,000 non-Jews who had been part of the Russian emigration, raising the question of how one becomes a Jew. No less problematic was the issue of a large Arab minority that continued to assert its rights and demand equality in a Jewish state.

      On the economic front, Israel had only partially completed its transformation from a socialist state into a more competitive market system by the end of the 20th century. Israel's military, long a unifying social institution, not only needed to counter new dangers from states such as Iraq and Iran (which both had long-range missiles) but also had to face the difficulties of changing to a more technical, less manpower-intensive force. Likewise, the political system badly needed reform following the failed experiment with direct elections for prime minister. Against this list of challenges, Israel could marshal its large and highly trained workforce, a dynamic technical sector, a large per capita gross national product, a record of absorbing large groups of immigrants, and a powerful army.

Harvey Sicherman

Additional Reading

General factual information is available in Country Review: Israel (semiannual), published by Physical and human geography are described in Efraim Orni and Elisha Efrat, Geography of Israel, 4th rev. ed. (1980). Studies in historical geography include Ruth Kark (ed.), The Land That Became Israel (1989); and Elisha Efrat, Geography and Politics in Israel Since 1967 (1988). Leo Picard, Structure and Evolution of Palestine: With Comparative Notes on Neighbouring Countries (1943, reprinted 1959), is an authoritative and comprehensive geologic study. Michael Zohary, Plant Life of Palestine: Israel and Jordan (1962), is a fundamental work; and F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life in Palestine: An Introduction to the Problems of Animal Ecology and Zoogeography (1938), and Prodromus Faunae Palestinae (1937), are classic works on Israel's fauna. Settlements are discussed in Aharon Kellerman, Society and Settlement: Jewish Land of Israel in the Twentieth Century (1993).Economic studies include Nadav Halevi and Ruth Klinov-Malul, The Economic Development of Israel (1968); Yoram Ben-Porath (ed.), The Israeli Economy: Maturing Through Crises (1986); and, for more recent events, Yair Aharoni, The Israeli Economy: Dreams and Realities (1991); and Yakir Plessner, The Political Economy of Israel: From Ideology to Stagnation (1994). Administrative and political issues are explored by Don Peretz and Gideon Doron, The Government and Politics of Israel, 3rd ed. (1997); Alan Dowty, The Jewish State: A Century Later (1998); Yael Yishai, Land of Paradoxes: Interest Politics in Israel (1991); Gregory S. Mahler, Israel: Government and Politics in a Maturing State (1990); and Gregory S. Mahler (ed.), Israel (2000). Adam Garfinkle, Politics and Society in Modern Israel, 2nd ed. (2000), gives an excellent account of the interplay of Israel's domestic and foreign policy. Asher Arian (Alan Arian), The Second Republic: Politics in Israel (1998; originally published in Hebrew, 1997), is based on unique electoral demographic data.Calvin Goldscheider, Israel's Changing Society: Population, Ethnicity, and Development (1996), is a useful work on demography and social structure. Sociological studies that summarize the great changes in Israeli life since independence include: Amir Ben-Porat, Divided We Stand: Class Structure in Israel from 1948 to the 1980s (1989); Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Stephen Sharot, Ethnicity, Religion, and Class in Israeli Society (1991); Gabriel Ben-Dor (ed.), Israel in Transition (1998); Dan Horowitz and Moshe Lissak, Trouble in Utopia (1989); and Baruch Kimmerling, The Invention and Decline of Israeliness: Society, Culture and the Military, (2001). Israeli culture is critically analyzed by Avishai Margalit, Views in Review: Politics and Culture in the State of the Jews (1998); and Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (1989).Russell A. Stone

Valuable general surveys of the region's prehistory may be found in William Foxwell Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, rev. ed. (1954, reprinted 1971); Kathleen M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, 4th ed. (1979, reprinted 1985); and Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land (1967). Works describing the Zionist movement and the establishment and subsequent history of Israel include Nahum Sokolow, History of Zionism, 1600–1918, 2 vol. (1919, reprinted 2 vol. in 1, 1969); Leonard Stein, Zionism (1925, reissued 1932); Norman Bentwich, Palestine (1934, reissued 1946); Albert M. Hyamson, Palestine Under the Mandate, 1920–1948 (1950, reprinted 1976); and Barnet Litvinoff, To the House of Their Fathers: A History of Zionism (1965). Valuable interpretations are contained in Peter Y. Medding, The Founding of Israeli Democracy, 1948–1967 (1990); and Laurence J. Silberstein, New Perspectives on Israeli History: The Early Years of the State (1991).The literature on Israel's history since 1948 is both vast and polemical. Useful works include the admirably concise T.G. Fraser, The Arab-Israeli Conflict (1995); Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Siege: The Saga of Israel and Zionism (1986, reissued 1988); Bernard Reich et al. (eds.), An Historical Encyclopedia of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1996); and Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Times, 2nd ed., rev. and updated (1996). Benny Morris, Righteous Victory: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999 (1999), is a good example of the controversial "new historians" school; and Martin Gilbert, Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 6th ed. (also published as The Dent Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1993), provides critical geographic context.Autobiographies of Israel's leaders reflect strong views and include David Ben-Gurion, Israel: A Personal History (1971, originally published in Hebrew, 1969); Menachem Begin, The Revolt, rev. ed. (1977, reissued 1983; originally published in Hebrew, 1950); Yigal Allon, The Making of Israel's Army (1970); Moshe Dayan, Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israel Peace Negotiations (1981); and Golda Meir, My Life (1975, reissued 1977). Yitzhak Rabin, The Rabin Memoirs, expanded ed. (1996; originally published in Hebrew, 1979), should be supplemented by David Horovitz, Shalom, Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin (1996).Ze'ev Schiff and Ehud Ya'ari, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising, ed. and trans. by Ina Friedman (1990; originally published in Hebrew, 1990), draws on sources within Israel's political-military establishment. Palestinian autonomy is discussed in Harvey Sicherman, Palestinian Self-Government (Autonomy): Its Past and Its Future (1991; also published as Palestinian Autonomy, Self-Government & Peace, 1993); and an analysis of events within the Israel-Lebanon-Syria triangle is Moshe Ma'oz, Syria and Israel: From War to Peacemaking (1995). The monographic literature concerning Israel's important relationship with the United States includes William B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (1993); and Bernard Reich, Securing the Covenant: United States-Israel Relations After the Cold War (1995). Dov S. Zakheim, Flight of the Lavi (1996), opens the window on the vital U.S.-Israeli military relationship. Finally, good accounts of Israel's peace diplomacy include David Makovsky, Making Peace with the PLO: The Rabin Government's Road to the Oslo Accord (1996); Itamar Rabinovitch, The Brink of Peace: The Israeli-Syrian Negotiations (1998); and Uri Savir, The Process: 1,100 Days That Changed the Middle East (1998).Harvey Sicherman

▪ Old Testament kingdom
      either of two political units in the Old Testament: the united kingdom of Israel under the kings Saul, David, and Solomon that lasted from about 1020 to 922 BC; or the northern kingdom of Israel, including the territories of the 10 northern tribes (i.e., all except Judah and part of Benjamin), that was established in 922 BC as the result of a revolt led by Jeroboam I. The southern kingdom, ruled by the Davidic dynasty, was thereafter referred to as Judah. The later kingdom's history was one of dynastic instability, with only two prolonged periods of stable government, under Omri (reigned 876–869 or c. 884–c. 872 BC) and Ahab (c. 874–c. 853 BC) and the Jehu dynasty (c. 842–746 BC). In the 8th century BC the northern kingdom was overrun by the Neo-Assyrian Empire, with Samaria, the capital, falling in 722/721.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • ISRAEL — (Heb. יִשְׂרָאֵל). (1) The name of honor given to jacob after his mysterious struggle with the angel, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob but Israel, for thou hast striven (sarita from the root sarah, שרה) with God (El, אֵל) and with men and… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Israel La'ad — (zu Deutsch: Ewiges Israel) wurde 2004 als ein gemeinnütziges Hilfswerk in Israel mit dem Ziel gegründet, für die Bedürfnisse der Unterpriviligierten in der israelischen Gesellschaft einzutreten. Dazu bietet das Hilfswerk Israel La ad Lernzentren …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Israel La'ad — was founded in 2004 to address the needs of the underprivileged in Israeli society by providing afternoon homework assistance, and a Ride for Pride bike riding program for teenagers at risk, and a food delivery program for the elderly.Afternoon… …   Wikipedia

  • ISRAEL — nomen Iacob, inditum ei ab Angelo. Gen. c. 32. v. 10. Inde pop. Israelitae. Quod nomen nunc totam Hebraeorum gentum, nuncpartem tantum designat, totam ante Salomonem, partem postea, Post Salomonem enim Hebraeorum regno, quod et Israel, vel… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Israel — m Biblical: the byname (meaning ‘he who strives with God’ in Hebrew) given to Jacob after he had wrestled with an angel: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast… …   First names dictionary

  • Israel — Ou Israël. Porté notamment dans l Aisne et le Bas Rhin, c est le nom qui a été donné à Jacob après sa lutte avec l Ange. Par la suite, à la mort de Salomon, Israël désigna le territoire attribué aux tribus du nord du royaume hébreu. Signification …   Noms de famille

  • Israel — Israel1 [iz′rē əl, iz′rāəl; iz′rəl] n. [OFr < LL(Ec) < Gr Israēl < Heb yisrael, lit., contender with God < sara, to wrestle + el, God] 1. a masculine name: dim. Izzy 2. Bible Jacob: so named after wrestling with the angel: Gen. 32:28… …   English World dictionary

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