Official name: State of Israel (Medinat Yisrael)
The State of Israel is a small country with a surface area of over 20,000 square kilometres. Its coastline borders the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, Israel’s population numbered 8,463,500, including 6,336,000 Jews and 1,757,400 Arabs (Israel Central Bureau of Staistics). As a result of its narrow width, Israel enjoys a mild maritime climate.
Claims to what is here termed as Historical Palestine (today’s Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories) – the site of Jewish kingdoms for a number of centuries BCE – led to the settlement of Zionist Jews in the region from the end of the 19th century, organized in the Zionist movement.
After World War II, in which the Nazis murdered six million Jews, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved, with a majority of votes, the creation of a Jewish State in Historical Palestine. In the course of the war between Israel and a number of neighbouring Arab states, which broke out after the proclamation of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the Israeli forces succeeded in conquering 78 percent of Historical Palestine, including West Jerusalem. During this war, more than 80 percent of the Palestinian population was displaced or fled the country.
In the June War of 1967 – a war which had far-reaching consequences for the balance of power in the region – Israel conquered the remaining part (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip). Israel has occupied these territories since 1967, and intensive settlement has taken place. Today, 800,000 Jewish settlers are living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in circa 150 Jewish settlements.
The fate of the Jews in World War II has strongly contributed to the provision by the West of large-scale economic and military support to Israel. Supplemented by financial support from Jewish communities elsewhere in the world, Israel has succeeded in becoming a regional economic and military superpower after 1948. Today, Israel meets the criteria of a modern state on many fronts. However, the rise of the State of Israel went hand in hand with the systematic dismantlement of the Palestinian society.
The Jewish population of Israel has increased sixfold since 1949, notably as a result of mass immigration. Although the original Palestinian inhabitants today make up a mere 20 percent of the population of the State of Israel, the number of Jews and Palestinians living in the territory stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan is now almost equal.