The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic in the Middle East, along the 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. Israel is defined as a Jewish and Democratic State in its Basic Laws and is the world's only Jewish-majority state.
Following the 1947 United Nations plan to partition 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 Israel a state independent from the British Mandate for Palestine. 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, 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. 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 centre is Tel Aviv,[ while Jerusalem is the country's most populous city, and its de facto capital (although not recognized internationally as such). The population of Israel, defined by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics to include all citizens or nationals, but not foreign workers, within Israel itself and in the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, was estimated in 2012 to be 7,848,800 people, of whom 5,909,000 are Jewish. Arabs form the country's second-largest ethnic group, the great majority of whom are settled-Muslims. Smaller minorities include Negev Bedouins, Druze, Christians, Circassians and Samaritans. At the end of 2005, 93% of the Arab population of East Jerusalem had permanent residency and 5% had Israeli citizenship.
Israel is a developed country, an OECD member, and 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. The economy, based on the nominal gross domestic product, was the 41st-largest in the world in 2010, with a very high standard of living, which is the highest in the Middle East.
Israel is at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. It lies between latitudes 29° and 34° N, and longitudes 34° and 36° E.
The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. However Israel is so narrow that the exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean is double the land area of the country. The total area under Israeli law, when including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi), and the total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi). Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel and toward the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to seventy percent of the nation's population. East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,039 mi) Great Rift Valley.
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