From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - 09/2014
Israel, officially the State of Israel, 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 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 country's most populous city and its designated capital, although Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is not recognized internationally.
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 the former Palestinian mandate 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 (1956-1957, 1967-1982), part of South Lebanon (1982-2000), 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.
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.
Upon independence in 1948, the country formally adopted the name "State of Israel" (Medinat Yisrael) after other proposed historical and religious names including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel"), Zion, and Judea, were considered and rejected.
In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term "Israeli" to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.
The names Land of Israel and Children of Israel have historically been used to refer to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish nation respectively.
The name "Israel" in these phrases refers to the patriarch Jacob (Standard Yisraʾel, Isrāʾīl; Septuagint Greek: Ἰσραήλ Israēl; "struggle with God" who, according to the Hebrew Bible was given the name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord.
Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel.
Jacob and his sons had lived in Canaan but were forced by famine to go into Egypt for four generations until Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob, led the Israelites back into Canaan during the "Exodus".
The earliest archaeological artifact to mention the word "Israel" is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BCE).
The area is also known as the Holy Land, being holy for all Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.
From 1920 the whole region was known as Palestine (under British Mandate) until the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948.
Through the centuries, the territory was known by a variety of other names, including Judea, Samaria, Southern Syria, Syria Palaestina, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Iudaea Province, Coele-Syria, Retjenu, and Canaan.
The notion of the "Land of Israel", known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been important and sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times.
According to the Torah, God promised the land to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people.
On the basis of scripture, the period of the three Patriarchs has been placed somewhere in the early 2nd millennium BCE, and the first Kingdom of Israel was established around the 11th century BCE.
Subsequent Israelite kingdoms and states ruled intermittently over the next four hundred years, and are known from various extra-biblical sources.
The first record of the name Israel occurs in the Merneptah stele, erected for Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah c. 1209 BCE, "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not."
This "Israel" was a cultural and probably political entity of the central highlands, well enough established to be perceived by the Egyptians as a possible challenge to their hegemony, but an ethnic group rather than an organised state;
Ancestors of the Israelites may have included Semites native to Canaan and the Sea Peoples.
McNutt says, "It is probably safe to assume that sometime during Iron Age I a population began to identify itself as 'Israelite'", differentiating itself from the Canaanites through such markers as the prohibition of intermarriage, an emphasis on family history and genealogy, and religion.
Villages had populations of up to 300 or 400, which lived by farming and herding, and were largely self-sufficient; economic interchange was prevalent.
Writing was known and available for recording, even in small sites.
The archaeological evidence indicates a society of village-like centres, but with more limited resources and a small population.
Modern scholars see Israel arising peacefully and internally from existing people in the highlands of Canaan.
Around 930 BCE, the kingdom split into a southern Kingdom of Judah and a northern Kingdom of Israel.
From the middle of the 8th century BCE Israel came into increasing conflict with the expanding neo-Assyrian empire.
Under Tiglath-Pileser III it first split Israel's territory into several smaller units and then destroyed its capital, Samaria (722 BCE).
An Israelite revolt (724-722 BCE) was crushed after the siege and capture of Samaria by the Assyrian king Sargon II.
Sargon's son, Sennacherib, tried and failed to conquer Judah.
Assyrian records say he leveled 46 walled cities and besieged Jerusalem, leaving after receiving extensive tribute.
In 586 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon conquered Judah.
According to the Hebrew Bible, he destroyed Solomon's Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon.
The defeat was also recorded by the Babylonians (see the Babylonian Chronicles).
In 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon and took over its empire.
Cyrus issued a proclamation granting subjugated nations (including the people of Judah) religious freedom (for the original text see the Cyrus Cylinder).
According to the Hebrew Bible 50,000 Judeans, led by Zerubabel, returned to Judah and rebuilt the temple.
A second group of 5,000, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to Judah in 456 BCE although non-Jews wrote to Cyrus to try to prevent their return.
With successive Persian rule, the region, divided between Syria-Coele province and later the autonomous Yehud Medinata, was gradually developing back into urban society, largely dominated by Judeans.
The Greek conquests largely skipped the region without any resistance or interest. Incorporated into Ptolemaic and finally Seleucid Empires, southern Levant was heavily hellenized, building the tensions between Judeans and Greeks.
The conflict erupted in 167 BCE with the Maccabean Revolt, which succeeded in establishing an independent Hasmonean Kingdom in Judah, which later expanded over much of modern Israel, as the Seleucids gradually lost control in the region.
The Roman Empire invaded the region in 63 BCE, first taking control of Syria, and then intervening in the Hasmonean civil war.
The struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Parthian factions in Judea eventually led to the installation of Herod the Great and consolidation of the Herodian Kingdom as a vassal Judean state of Rome.
With the decline of Herodians, Judea, transformed into a Roman province, became the site of a violent struggle of Jews against Greco-Romans, culminating in the Jewish-Roman Wars, ending in wide-scale destruction, expulsions, and genocide.
Jewish presence in the region significantly dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE.
Nevertheless, there was a continuous small Jewish presence and Galilee became its religious center.
The Mishnah and part of the Talmud, central Jewish texts, were composed during the 2nd to 4th centuries CE in Tiberias and Jerusalem.
The region came to be populated predominantly by Greco-Romans on the coast and Samaritans in the hill-country.
Christianity was gradually evolving over Roman paganism, when the area under Byzantine rule was transformed into Deocese of the East, as Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda provinces.
Through the 5th and 6th centuries, dramatic events of Samaritan Revolts reshaped the land, with massive destruction to Byzantine Christian and Samaritan societies and a resulting decrease of the population.
After the Persian conquest and the installation of a short-lived Jewish Commonwealth in 614 CE, the Byzantine Empire reinstalled its rule in 625 CE, resulting in further decline and destruction.
Middle Ages and caliphates
In 635 CE, the region, including Jerusalem, was conquered by Arabs.
It remained under Muslim control and predominately Muslim occupancy for the next 1300 years under various caliphates.
Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Crusaders throughout the next six centuries, before the area was conquered in 1260 by the Mamluk Sultanate.
In 1099, the Jews were among the rest of the population who tried in vain to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders.
When the city fell, a massacre of 6,000 Jews occurred when the synagogue they were seeking refuge in was set alight. Almost all perished.
The Jews almost single-handedly defended Haifa against the crusaders, holding out in the besieged town for a whole month (June–July 1099) in fierce battles.
At this time, a full thousand years after the fall of the Jewish state, there were Jewish communities all over the country.
Fifty of them are known and include Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ramleh, Ashkelon, Caesarea, and Gaza.
In 1165 Maimonides visited Jerusalem and prayed on the Temple Mount, in the "great, holy house".
In 1141 Spanish poet, Yehuda Halevi, issued a call to the Jews to emigrate to the Land of Israel, a journey he undertook himself.
In 1187 Ayyubid Sultan Saladin defeated the Crusaders in the Battle of Hattin and took Jerusalem and most of Palestine.
In time, Saladin issued a proclamation inviting all Jews to return and settle in Jerusalem, and according to Judah al-Harizi, they did: "From the day the Arabs took Jerusalem, the Israelites inhabited it."
Al-Harizi compared Saladins decree allowing Jews to re-establish themselves in Jerusalem to the one issued by the Persian Cyrus the Great over 1,600 years earlier.
In 1211, the Jewish community in the country was strengthened by the arrival of a group headed by over 300 rabbis from France and England, among them Rabbi Samson ben Abraham of Sens.
Nachmanides, the 13th-century Spanish rabbi and recognised leader of Jewry greatly praised the land of Israel and viewed its settlement as a positive commandment incumbent on all Jews.
He wrote "If the gentiles wish to make peace, we shall make peace and leave them on clear terms; but as for the land, we shall not leave it in their hands, nor in the hands of any nation, not in any generation."
In 1260, control passed to the Egyptian Mamluks.
In 1266 the Mamluk Sultan Baybars converted the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron into an exclusive Islamic sanctuary and banned Christians and Jews from entering, which previously would be able to enter it for a fee.
The ban remained in place until Israel took control of the building in 1967.
In 1470, Isaac Meir Latif arrived from Ancona and counted 150 Jewish families in Jerusalem.
Thanks to Joseph Saragossi who had arrived in the closing years of the 15th century, Safed and its environs had developed into the largest concentration of Jews in Palestine.
With the help of the Sephardic immigration from Spain, the Jewish population had increased to 10,000 by the early 16th century.
In 1516, the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire; it remained under Turkish rule until the end of the First World War, when Britain defeated the Ottoman forces and set up a military administration across the former Ottoman Syria.
In 1920 the territory was divided under the mandate system, and the area which included modern day Israel was named Mandatory Palestine.
Zionism and the British mandate
Since the Diaspora, some Jews have aspired to return to "Zion" and the "Land of Israel", though the amount of effort that should be spent towards such an aim was a matter of dispute.
The hopes and yearnings of Jews living in exile were articulated in the Hebrew Bible, and are an important theme of the Jewish belief system.
After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, some communities settled in Palestine.
During the 16th century, Jewish communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities-Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed - and in 1697, Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid led a group of 1,500 Jews to Jerusalem.
In the second half of the 18th century, Eastern European opponents of Hasidism, known as the Perushim, settled in Palestine.
The first wave of modern Jewish migration to Ottoman-ruled Palestine, known as the First Aliyah, began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe.
Although the Zionist movement already existed in practice, Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism,] a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane.
In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews), offering his vision of a future Jewish state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.
The Second Aliyah (1904-14), began after the Kishinev pogrom; some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine, although nearly half of them left eventually.
Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, although the Second Aliyah included socialist groups who established the kibbutz movement.
During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to Baron Rothschild (Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, that stated that Britain intended for the creation of a Jewish homeland within the Palestinian Mandate.
The Jewish Legion, a group primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine in 1918.
Arab opposition to British rule and Jewish immigration led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of a Jewish militia known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi, or Stern Gang, paramilitary groups later split off.
In 1922, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration.
The population of the area at this time was predominantly Arab and Muslim, with Jews accounting for about 11%, Christians 9.5%.
The Third (1919-1923) and Fourth Aliyahs (1924-1929) brought an additional 100,000 Jews to Palestine.
Finally, the rise of Nazism and the increasing persecution of Jews in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews.
This was a major cause of the Arab revolt of 1936-1939 and led the British to introduce restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine with the White Paper of 1939.
With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine.
By the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Palestine had increased to 33% of the total population.
Independence and first years
After World War II, Britain found itself in fierce conflict with the Jewish community, as the Haganah joined Irgun and Lehi in an armed struggle against British rule.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors and refugees sought a new life far from their destroyed communities in Europe.
The Yishuv attempted to bring these refugees to Palestine but many were turned away or rounded up and placed in detention camps in Atlit and Cyprus by the British.
In 1947, the British government announced it would withdraw from Mandatory Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.
On 15 May 1947, the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations resolved that a committee, United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), be created "to prepare for consideration at the next regular session of the Assembly a report on the question of Palestine".
In the Report of the Committee dated 3 September 1947 to the UN General Assembly, the majority of the Committee in Chapter VI proposed a plan to replace the British Mandate with "an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem ... the last to be under an International Trusteeship System".
On 29 November 1947, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of the Plan of Partition with Economic Union as Resolution 181 (II).
The Plan attached to the resolution was essentially that proposed by the majority of the Committee in the Report of 3 September 1947.
The Jewish Agency, which was the recognized representative of the Jewish community, accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee of Palestine rejected it.
On 1 December 1947, the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets.
The Jews were initially on the defensive as civil war broke out, but gradually moved onto the offensive.
The Palestinian Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled.
On 14 May 1948, the day before the expiration of the British Mandate, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, declared "the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel".
The only reference in the text of the Declaration to the borders of the new state is the use of the term, Eretz-Israel.
The following day, the armies of four Arab countries - Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq - entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War;
Saudi Arabia sent a military contingent to operate under Egyptian command; Yemen declared war but did not take military action.
In the introduction to the cablegram from the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States to the UN Secretary-General of 15 May 1948, the Arab League gave reasons for its intervention;
"On the occasion of the intervention of Arab States in Palestine to restore law and order and to prevent disturbances prevailing in Palestine from spreading into their territories and to check further bloodshed".
After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established.
Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip.
The United Nations estimated that more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled during the conflict from what would become Israel.
Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations by majority vote on 11 May 1949.
In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics.
One such policy, the One Million Plan, led to an an influx of Holocaust survivors and Jews from Arab and Muslim lands, many of whom faced persecution and expulsion from their original countries.
Consequently, the population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958.
During this period, food, clothes and furniture had to be rationed in what became known as the Austerity Period.
Between 1948 and 1970, approximately 1,151,029 Jewish refugees relocated to Israel.
Some arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot; by 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities.
The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea that Israel could accept monetary compensation for the Holocaust.
The immigrants came to Israel for differing reasons.
Some believed in the Zionist ideology, while others moved to escape persecution.
There were others that did it for the promise of a better life in Israel and a small number that were expelled from their homelands, such as British and French Jews in Egypt after the Suez Crisis.
According to Tom Segev, the refugees were often treated differently according to where they were from.
Jews of European descent were considered critical to the strengthening and peopling of Israel, so they were generally allowed to enter Israel first and thus were given abandoned Arab houses to live in.
On the other hand, Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries were viewed by many Ashkenazi Jews as lazy, poor, culturally and religiously backward, and a threat to established communal life in Israel and remained in transit camps for longer periods of time.
During the 1950s, the standard of living gap between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews widened so much that tensions developed between the two groups.
This tension first moved to hostility during the Wadi Salib riots in 1959; other instances of domestic turmoil would occur over the following decades.
Immigration to Israel during the late 1940s and early 1950s was aided by the Israeli Immigration Department and the non-government sponsored Organization for Illegal Immigration, called Mossad le-aliyah bet.
Both groups facilitated regular immigration logistics like arranging transportation, but the latter also engaged in clandestine operations in countries, particularly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, where the lives of Jews were believed to be in danger and exit from those places was difficult.
The Organization for Illegal Immigration continued to take part in immigration efforts until its disbanding in 1953.
In the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, leading to several Israeli counter-raids.
In 1950 Egypt closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping and tensions mounted as armed clashes took place along Israel's borders.
In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with Great Britain and France aimed at regaining control of the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis).
Israel overran the Sinai Peninsula but was pressured to withdraw by the United Nations in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.
In the early 1960s, Israel captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and brought him to Israel for trial.
The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust.
Eichmann remains the only person executed after conviction by an Israeli civilian court.
Further conflict and peace treaties
Since 1964, Arab countries, concerned over Israeli plans to divert waters of the Jordan River into the coastal plain, had been trying to divert the headwaters to deprive Israel of water resources, provoking tensions between Israel on the one hand, and Syria and Lebanon on the other.
According to the United Nations, since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, disputes over Palestinian water rights has been one of the most difficult conflicts to resolve through negotiations.
Water resources have been confiscated for Israeli settlements in the Ghor, Palestinian pumps on the Jordan River destroyed or confiscated, and Palestinians prevented from using water from the Jordan River system or drilling new irrigation wells.
However, Israel provided fresh water and allowed wells for irrigation at the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A final agreement over water rights has been postponed until final status arrangement negotiations between the two sides.
Arab nationalists led by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser refused to recognize Israel, and called for its destruction.
By 1966, Israeli-Arab relations had deteriorated to the point of actual battles taking place between Israeli and Arab forces.
In 1967, Egypt expelled UN peacekeepers, stationed in the Sinai Peninsula since 1957, and announced a partial blockade of Israel's access to the Red Sea.
In May 1967 a number of Arab states began to mobilize their forces.
Israel saw these actions as a casus belli.
On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.
In a Six-Day War, Israeli military superiority was clearly demonstrated against their more numerous Arab foes.
Israel succeeded in capturing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem, and the 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories.
Following the war, Israel faced much internal resistance from the Palestinians and Egyptian hostilities in the Sinai.
Most important among the various Palestinian and Arab groups was the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), established in 1964, which initially committed itself to "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland".
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
The Israeli government responded with an assassination campaign against the organizers of the massacre, a bombing and a raid on the PLO headquarters in Lebanon.
On 6 October 1973, as Jews were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.
The war ended on 26 October with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but having suffered over 2,500 soldiers killed in a war which collectively took between 10-35,000 lives in just 20 days.
An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for failures before and during the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.
In July 1976 Israeli commandos carried out a rescue mission which succeeded in rescuing 102 hostages who were being held by Palestinian guerillas at Entebbe International Airport close to Kampala, Uganda.
Operation Gazelle, Israel's ground maneuver, encircles the Egyptian Third Army, October 1973
The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party.
Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state.
In the two years that followed, Sadat and Begin signed the Camp David Accords (1978) and the Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty (1979).
Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
On 11 March 1978, a PLO guerilla raid from Lebanon led to the Coastal Road Massacre, in which 38 Israeli civilians were killed and 71 injured.
Israel responded by launching an invasion of southern Lebanon to destroy the PLO bases south of the Litani River.
Most PLO fighters withdrew, but Israel was able to secure southern Lebanon until a UN force and the Lebanese army could take over.
The PLO soon resumed its policy of attacks against Israel.
In the next few years, the PLO infiltrated the south and kept up a sporadic shelling across the border.
Israel carried out numerous retaliatory attacks by air and on the ground.
Meanwhile, Begin's government provided incentives for Israelis to settle in the occupied West Bank, increasing friction with the Palestinians in that area.
The Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel, passed in 1980, was believed by some to reaffirm Israel's 1967 annexation of Jerusalem by government decree, and reignited international controversy over the status of the city.
No Israeli legislation has defined the territory of Israel and no act specifically included East Jerusalem therein.
The position of the majority of UN member states is reflected in numerous resolutions declaring that actions taken by Israel to settle its citizens in the West Bank, and impose its laws and administration on East Jerusalem, are illegal and have no validity.
In 1981 Israel annexed the Golan Heights, although annexation was not recognized internationally.
On 7 June 1981, the Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's sole nuclear reactor, which was under construction just outside Baghdad.
Following a series of PLO attacks in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon that year to destroy the bases from which the PLO launched attacks and missiles into northern Israel.
In the first six days of fighting, the Israelis destroyed the military forces of the PLO in Lebanon and decisively defeated the Syrians.
An Israeli government inquiry - the Kahan Commission - would later hold Begin, Sharon and several Israeli generals as indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
In 1985, Israel responded to a Palestinian terrorist attack in Cyprus by bombing the PLO headquarters in Tunis.
Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone in southern Lebanon until 2000.
Israel's ethnic diversity expanded in the 1980s and 1990s due to immigration.
Several waves of Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s and between 1990 and 1994, Russian immigration to Israel increased Israel's population by twelve percent.
The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987, with waves of uncoordinated demonstrations and violence occurring in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Over the following six years, the Intifada became more organised and included economic and cultural measures aimed at disrupting the Israeli occupation.
More than a thousand people were killed in the violence.
Responding to continuing PLO guerilla raids into northern Israel, Israel launched another punitive raid into southern Lebanon in 1988.
Amid rising tensions over the Kuwait crisis, Israeli border guards fired into a rioting Palestinian crowd near the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
20 people were killed and some 150 injured.
During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Scud missile attacks against Israel.
Despite public outrage, Israel heeded US calls to refrain from hitting back and did not participate in that war.
In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party called for compromise with Israel's neighbors.
The following year, Shimon Peres on behalf of Israel, and Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The PLO also recognized Israel's right to exist and pledged an end to terrorism.
In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.
Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the continuation of Israeli settlements and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions.
Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks.
Finally, while leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords.
At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.
Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the 2000 Camp David Summit.
During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it.
After the collapse of the talks and a controversial visit by Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, the Second Intifada began, which was allegedly pre-planned by Yasser Arafat.
Sharon became prime minister in a 2001 special election.
During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier, defeating the Intifada.
In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross-border abduction of two Israeli soldiers precipitated the month-long Second Lebanon War.
On 6 September 2007, Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria. In May 2008, Israel confirmed it had been discussing a peace treaty with Syria for a year, with Turkey as a go-between.
However, at the end of the year, Israel entered another conflict as a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed.
The Gaza War lasted three weeks and ended after Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire.
Hamas announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings.
Despite neither the rocket launchings nor Israeli retaliatory strikes having completely stopped, the fragile ceasefire remained in order.
In what it said was a response to more than a hundred Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities, Israel began an operation in Gaza on 14 November 2012, lasting eight days.Israel started another operation in Gaza following an escalation of rocket attacks by Hamas in July 2014.
State of Israel
מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Hebrew)
دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل (Arabic)
Capital and largest city Jerusalem:
Ethnic groups (2013)
• 75.3% Jewish
• 20.7% Arab
Unitary parliamentary republic
• Reuven Rivlin
• Benjamin Netanyahu
Independence from British Mandatory Palestine
• 14 May 1948
• 1 May 1949
Total: 20,770 / 22,072 (153rd) km2 - 8,019 / 8,522 sq mi
Water (%): 2.12 (440 km2 / 170 mi2)
• 2014 estimate: 8,146,300 (96th) - 2008 census - 7,412,200 (99th)
• Density: 387.63/km2 (34th) - 1,004.00/sq mi
GDP (PPP): 2014 estimate
• Total: $286.840 billion
• Per capita: $35,658 (25th)
Israeli new shekel (₪) (ILS)
Israel Standard Time (UTC+2) -
Israel Summer Time (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
ISO 3166 code: