Israel (pron.: /ˈɪzriːəl/ or /ˈɪzreɪəl/), officially the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, Medīnat Yisrā’el, IPA: [me̞diˈnät jisʁäˈʔe̞l] ( listen); Arabic: دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل, Dawlat Isrāʼīl, IPA: [dawlat ʔisraːˈʔiːl]), is a parliamentary democracy in the Middle East, on the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, Egypt and the Gaza Strip on the southwest, and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south, and it contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. In its Basic Laws Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State; it is the world’s only Jewish-majority state.
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the United Nations partition plan of Mandatory Palestine. On 14 May 1948 David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World 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 states invaded the next day in support of the Palestinian Arabs. 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), Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Portions of these territories, including East Jerusalem, have been annexed by Israel, but the border with the neighboring West Bank has not yet been permanently defined.[neutrality is disputed] Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict have so far not resulted in peace.
Israel’s financial center is Tel Aviv, while Jerusalem is the country’s most populous city and its capital (although not recognized internationally as such). Thepopulation of Israel, as defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, was estimated in 2012 to be 7,956,000 people, of whom 5,995,700 are Jewish. Arabsform the country’s second-largest ethnic group with 1,642,000 people (including Druze and Bedouins). The great majority of Israeli Arabs are settled-Muslims, with smaller but significant numbers of semi-settled Negev Bedouins and Arab Christians. Other minorities include various ethnic and ethno-religious denominations such as Druze, Circassians, African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Samaritans, Maronites and others.
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 unicameral legislative body. Israel has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is a developed country, an OECD member, and its economy, based on the nominal gross domestic product, was the 41st-largest in the world in 2011. Israel has the highest standard of living in the Middle East.[2