Israel /ˈɪzreɪəl/, officially the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Medīnat Yisrā’el, IPA: [mediˈnat jisʁaˈʔel] ( listen); Arabic: دولة إِسرائيل, Dawlat Isrāʼīl, IPA: [dawlat ʔisraːˈʔiːl]), is a country in Western Asia, situated at the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It shares land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories (or State of Palestine) comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the east and southwest, respectively, and Egypt and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south. It contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel’s financial center is Tel Aviv, while Jerusalem is the region’s most populous city and Israel’s designated capital, although Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognized internationally.[note 1]
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine. On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the Zionist Organization and president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel,” a state independent upon the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine, 15 May 1948. Neighboring Arab armies invaded Palestine on the next day and fought the Israeli forces. Israel has since fought several wars with neighboring Arab states, in the course of which it has occupied the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula (between 1967 and 1982), part of South Lebanon (between 1982 and 2000), Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. It annexed portions of these territories, including East Jerusalem, but the border with the West Bank is disputed. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and with Jordan, but efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have so far not resulted in peace.
The population of Israel, as defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, was estimated in 2014 to be 8,146,300 people. It is the world’s only Jewish-majority state; 6,110,600 citizens, or 75.3% of Israelis, are Jewish, 61% of whom are of Mizrahi Jewish ancestry. The country’s second largest group of citizens are designated as Arabs, with 1,686,000 people (including the Druze and most East Jerusalem Arabs). The great majority of Israeli Arabs are settled Muslims, with smaller but significant numbers of semi-settled Negev Bedouins; the rest are Christians and Druze. Other minorities include Maronites, Samaritans, Dom people, Black Hebrew Israelites, other Sub-Saharan Africans, Armenians, Circassians, Roma and others. Israel also hosts a significant population of non-citizen foreign workers and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.
In its Basic Laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State. Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system, proportional representation and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel’s legislative body. Israel is a developed country and an OECD member, with the 43rd-largest economy in the world by nominal gross domestic product as of 2012. The country has the highest standard of living in the Middle East and the fifth highest in Asia, and has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
The Gaza Strip (/ˈɡɑːzəˈstrɪp/; Arabic: قطاع غزة Qiṭāʿ Ġazzah [qɪˈtˤɑːʕ ˈɣazza]), or simply Gaza, is an exclave region of Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) and Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Gaza makes up part of the Palestinian territories which includes the West Bank, and in 2012 the United Nations General Assembly “accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations”.
In 1994, Israel granted the right of self-governance to Gaza through the Palestinian Authority. Prior to this, Gaza had been subject to military occupation, most recently by Israel (1967–94) and by Egypt (1948–67) (see Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt), and earlier by Great Britain (1918–48) and Turkey when Gaza had been part of the Ottoman Empire. Gaza has, just like Palestine, never been a sovereign state or territory. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been de facto governed by Hamas, a Palestinian group claiming to be the representatives of the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people. Gaza forms a part of the Palestinian territory defined in the Oslo Agreements and UNSC Resolution 1860.
Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world, and is overcrowded. There is a limited capability to construct new homes and facilities for this growth. The territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). As of 2014, Palestinians of the Gaza Strip numbered around 1.82 million people. The large Palestinian refugee population makes it among the most densely populated parts of the world. Sunni Muslims make up the predominant part of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip acquired its current northern and eastern boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 war, confirmed by the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949. Article V of the Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border. At first the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government, established by the Arab League in September 1948. All-Palestine in the Gaza Strip was managed under the military authority of Egypt, functioning as puppet state, until it officially merged into the United Arab Republic and dissolved in 1959. From the time of the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government until 1967, the Gaza Strip was directly administered by an Egyptian military governor. Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Six-Day War in 1967. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, the Palestinian Authority became the administrative body that governed Palestinian population centers while Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings with the exception of the land border with Egypt. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip under their unilateral disengagement plan. In July 2007, following the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and the Hamas takeover in 2007, Hamas had functioned as the de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip, forming an alternative Hamas Government in Gaza.
In 2014, following reconciliation talks, Hamas and Fatah formed a Palestinian unity government within the State of Palestine. Rami Hamdallah became the coalition’s Prime Minister and has planned for elections in Gaza and the West Bank. In July 2014, a set of lethal incidents between Hamas and Israel led to the Israeli military launching Operation Protective Edge.