Key Facts Israel

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Jerusalem

Demography: 6.4 million population; Jewish 76.4% (of which Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab).

Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004); Languages: Hebrew (official), Arabic used officially for Arab minority, English most commonly used foreign language.

Geography: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Lebanon.

Government: Parliamentary democracy; Head of government, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (since May 2006)

Economy: Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. It depends on imports of crude oil, grains, raw materials, and military equipment. Despite limited natural resources, Israel has intensively developed its agricultural and industrial sectors over the past 20 years. Israel imports substantial quantities of grain but is largely self-sufficient in other agricultural products. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable current account deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government’s external debt is owed to the U.S., which is its major source of economic and military aid. The bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict, difficulties in the high-technology, construction, and tourist sectors, and fiscal austerity in the face of growing inflation led to small declines in GDP in 2001 and 2002. The economy rebounded in 2003 and 2004, growing at a 4% rate each year, as the government tightened fiscal policy and implemented structural reforms to boost competition and efficiency in the markets. In 2005, rising consumer confidence, tourism and foreign direct investment — as well as higher demand for Israeli exports — boosted GDP by 4.7%.

GDP: U.S.$156.9 billion; U.S.$25,000 per capita (PPP, 2005 est.); Inflation 1.3%; Unemployment 9%.

Currency: New Israeli shekels, 4.5 per U.S. dollar (2005)

Exports: U.S.$40.1 billion (2005 est.); machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel

Imports: U.S.$43.2 billion (2005 est.); raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, consumer goods. Agricultural products: Citrus, vegetables, cotton, beef, poultry, dairy products.

Transportation: 17,364 km highways; 853 km railroads.

Internet: Code .il; 1,251,881 hosts and 3.7 million users (2006)

(Source: CIA World Fact Book)