The World Factbook (1990)/Israel

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The World Factbook (1990)
United States Central Intelligence Agency

pages 153–154

Israel (also see separate Gaza Strip and West Bank entries)

World Factbook (1990) Israel.jpg

 See regional map VI

Note: The Arab territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war are not included in the data below. As stated in the 1978 Camp David Accords and reaffirmed by President Reagan's 1 September 1982 peace initiative, the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, their relationship with their neighbors, and a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan are to be negotiated among the concerned parties. The Camp David Accords further specify that these negotiations will resolve the location of the respective boundaries. Pending the completion of this process, it is US policy that the final status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has yet to be determined (see West Bank and Gaza Strip entries). On 25 April 1982 Israel relinquished control of the Sinai to Egypt. Statistics for the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are included in the Syria entry.


Total area: 20,770 km²; land area: 20,330 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than New Jersey

Land boundaries: 1,006 km total; Egypt 255 km, Jordan 238 km, Lebanon 79 km, Syria 76 km, West Bank 307, Gaza Strip 51 km

Coastline: 273 km

Maritime claims:

Continental shelf: to depth of exploitation
Territorial sea: 6 nm

Disputes: separated from Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank by the 1949 Armistice Line; differences with Jordan over the location of the 1949 Armistice Line which separates the two countries; West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli occupied with status to be determined; Golan Heights is Israeli occupied; Israeli troops in southern Lebanon since June 1982; water-sharing issues with Jordan

Climate: temperate; hot and dry in desert areas

Terrain: Negev desert in the south; low coastal plain; central mountains; Jordan Rift Valley

Natural resources: copper, phosphates, bromide, potash, clay, sand, sulfur, asphalt, manganese, small amounts of natural gas and crude oil

Land use: 17% arable land; 5% permanent crops; 40% meadows and pastures; 6% forest and woodland; 32% other; includes 11% irrigated

Environment: sandstorms may occur during spring and summer; limited arable land and natural water resources pose serious constraints; deforestation;

Note: there are 173 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, 35 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 18 in the Gaza Strip, and 14 Israeli-built Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem


Population: 4,409,218 (July 1990), growth rate 1.5% (1989); includes 70,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, 10,500 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 2,500 in the Gaza Strip, and 110,000 in East Jerusalem (1989 est.)

Birth rate: 22 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 6 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 9 deaths/1,000 live births (July 1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 76 years male, 79 years female (July 1990)

Total fertility rate: 2.9 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Israeli(s); adjective—Israeli

Ethnic divisions: 83% Jewish, 17% non-Jewish (mostly Arab)

Religion: 83% Judaism, 13.1% Islam (mostly Sunni Muslim), 2.3% Christian, 1.6% Druze

Language: Hebrew (official); Arabic used officially for Arab minority; English most commonly used foreign language

Literacy: 88% Jews, 70% Arabs

Labor force: 1,400,000 (1984 est.); 29.5% public services; 22.8% industry, mining, and manufacturing; 12.8% commerce; 9.5% finance and business; 6.8% transport, storage, and communications; 6.5% construction and public works; 5.5% agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 5.8% personal and other services; 1.0% electricity and water (1983)

Organized labor: 90% of labor force


Long-form name: State of Israel

Type: republic

Capital: Israel proclaimed Jerusalem its capital in 1950, but the US, like nearly all other countries, maintains its Embassy in Tel Aviv

Administrative divisions: 6 districts (mehozot, singular—mehoz); Central, Haifa, Jerusalem, Northern, Southern, Tel Aviv

Independence: 14 May 1948 (from League of Nations mandate under British administration)

Constitution: no formal constitution; some of the functions of a constitution are filled by the Declaration of Establishment (1948), the basic laws of the Parliament (Knesset), and the Israeli citizenship law

Legal system: mixture of English common law, British Mandate regulations, and, in personal matters, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim legal systems; in December 1985 Israel informed the UN Secretariat that it would no longer accept compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Independence Day, 10 May 1989; Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, but the Jewish calendar is lunar and the holiday may occur in April or May

Executive branch: president, prime minister, vice prime minister, Cabinet

Legislative branch: unicameral Knesset

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Leaders: Chief of State—President Gen. Chaim HERZOG (since 5 May 1983);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Yitzhak SHAMIR (since 20 October 1986); Vice Prime Minister Shimon PERES (Prime Minister from 13 September 1984 to 20 October 1986, when he rotated to Vice Prime Minister)

Political parties and leaders: Israel currently has a national unity government comprising five parties that hold 95 of the Knesset's 120 seats; Members of the unity government—Likud bloc, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir; Labor Party, Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Shimon Peres; Sephardic Torah Guardians (SHAS), Minister of Immigrant Absorption Yitzhak Peretz; National Religious Party, Minister of Religious Affairs Zevulun Hammer; Agudat Yisrael, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Moshe Zeev Feldman;

Opposition parties—Tehiya Party, Yuval Ne'eman; Tzomet Party, 'Rafael Eytan; Moledet Party, Reḥavam Ze'evi; Degel HaTorah, Avraham Ravitz; Citizens' Rights Movement, Shulamit Aloni; United Workers' Party (MAPAM), Yair Tzaban; Center Movement-Shinui, Amnon Rubenstein; New Communist Party of Israel (RAKAH), Meir Wilner; Progressive List for Peace, Muhammad Mi'ari; Arab Democratic Party, 'Abd Al Wahab Darawshah

Suffrage: universal at age 18

Elections: President—last held 23 February 1988 (next to be held February 1994); results—Gen. Chaim Herzog reelected by Knesset;

Parliament—last held 1 November 1988 (next to be held by November 1992); seats—(120 total) Likud bloc 40, Labor Party 39, SHAS 6, National Religious Party 5, Agudat Yisrael 5, Citizens' Rights Movement 5, RAKAH 4, Tehiya Party 3, MAPAM 3, Tzomet Party 2, Moledet Party 2, Degel HaTorah 2, Center Movement-Shinui 2, Progressive List for Peace 1, Arab Democratic Party 1

Communists: Hadash (predominantly Arab but with Jews in its leadership) has some 1,500 members

Other political or pressure groups: Gush Emunim, Jewish nationalists advocating Jewish settlement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; Peace Now, critical of government's West Bank/Gaza Strip and Lebanon policies

Member of: CCC, FAO, GATT, IAEA, IBRD, ICAC, ICAO, IDA, IDB—Inter-American Development Bank, IFAD, IFC, ILO, IMF, IMO, IOOC, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IPU, ITU, IWC—International Wheat Council, OAS (observer), UN, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WSG, WTO

Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Moshe ARAD; Chancery at 3514 International Drive NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 364-5500; there are Israeli Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco; US—Ambassador William A. BROWN; Embassy at 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv (mailing address is APO New York 09672); telephone [972](3) 654338; there is a US Consulate General in Jerusalem

Flag: white with a blue hexagram (six-pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag


Overview: Israel has a market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports for crude oil, food, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has developed its agriculture and industry sectors on an intensive scale over the past 20 years. Industry accounts for about 23% of the labor force, agriculture for 6%, and services for most of the balance. Diamonds, high-technology machinery, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the biggest export earners. The balance of payments has traditionally been negative, but is offset by large transfer payments and foreign loans. Nearly two-thirds of Israel's $16 billion external debt is owed to the US, which is its major source for economic and military aid. To earn needed foreign exchange, Israel must continue to exploit high-technology niches in the international market, such as medical scanning equipment. In 1987 the economy showed a 5.2% growth in real GNP, the best gain in nearly a decade; in 1988-89 the gain was only 1% annually, largely because of the economic impact of the Palestinian uprising (intifadah). Inflation dropped from an annual rate of over 400% in 1984 to about 16% in 1987-88 without any major increase in unemployment.

GNP: $38 billion, per capita $8,700; real growth rate 1% (1989)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 20% (1989)

Unemployment rate: 9% (December 1989)

Budget: revenues $24.2 billion; expenditures $26.3 billion, including capital expenditures of $7 billion (FY89 est.)

Exports: $10.4 billion (f.o.b., 1989 est.); commodities—polished diamonds, citrus and other fruits, textiles and clothing, processed foods, fertilizer and chemical products, military hardware, electronics; partners—US, UK, FRG, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy

Imports: $12.4 billion (c.i.f., 1989 est.); commodities—military equipment, rough diamonds, oil, chemicals, machinery, iron and steel, cereals, textiles, vehicles, ships, aircraft; partners—US, FRG, UK, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg

External debt: $16.4 billion (March 1989)

Industrial production: growth rate -1.5% (1989)

Electricity: 4,392,000 kW capacity; 17,500 million kWh produced, 4,000 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: food processing, diamond cutting and polishing, textiles, clothing, chemicals, metal products, military equipment, transport equipment, electrical equipment, miscellaneous machinery, potash mining, high-technology electronics, tourism

Agriculture: accounts for 5% of GNP; largely self-sufficient in food production, except for bread grains; principal products—citrus and other fruits, vegetables, cotton; livestock products—beef, dairy, and poultry

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $15.8 billion; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1970-87), $2.2 billion

Currency: new Israeli shekel (plural—shekels); 1 new Israeli shekel (NIS) = 100 new agorot

Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels (NIS) per US$1—1.9450 (January 1990), 1.9164 (1989), 1.5989 (1988), 1.5946 (1987), 1.4878 (1986), 1.1788 (1985)

Fiscal year: 1 April-31 March


Railroads: 594 km 1.435-meter gauge, single track; diesel operated

Highways: 4,500 km; majority is bituminous surfaced

Pipelines: crude oil, 708 km; refined products, 290 km; natural gas, 89 km

Ports: Ashdod, Haifa, Elat

Merchant marine: 31 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 483,424 GRT/560,085 DWT; includes 9 cargo, 20 container, 2 roll-on/roll-off cargo

Civil air: 27 major transport aircraft

Airports: 55 total, 52 usable; 26 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 6 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 11 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: most highly developed in the Middle East though not the largest; good system of coaxial cable and radio relay; 1,800,000 telephones; stations—11 AM, 24 FM, 54 TV; 2 submarine cables; satellite earth stations—2 Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT and 1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT

Defense Forces

Branches: Israel Defense Forces; historically there have been no separate Israeli military services; ground, air, and naval components are branches of Israel Defense Forces

Military manpower: eligible 15-49, 2,159,462; of the 1,089,346 males 15-49, 898,272 are fit for military service; of the 1,070,116 females 15-49, 878,954 are fit for military service; 43,644 males and 41,516 females reach military age (18) annually; both sexes are liable for military service

Defense expenditures: 8.5% of GNP, or $3.2 billion (1989 est.); note—does not include an estimated $1.8 billion in US military aid