Population: 7,473,052 (July 2010 est.)
Religions: Jewish 75.6%, Muslim 16.9%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.7%, other 3.8% (2008 census).
Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon.
Government: Parliamentary democracy. Chief of state: Shimon Peres (since July 15, 2007); head of government: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (since March 31, 2009).
Economy: Israel has a technologically advanced market economy. 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. Cut diamonds, high-technology equipment, and agricultural products (fruits and vegetables) are the leading exports. Israel usually posts sizable trade 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., its major source of economic and military aid. Israel’s GDP, after contracting slightly in 2001 and 2002 due to the Palestinian conflict and troubles in the high-technology sector, grew about 5% per year from 2004-07. The global financial crisis of 2008-09 spurred a brief recession in Israel, but the country entered the crisis with solid fundamentals — following years of prudent fiscal policy and a series of liberalizing reforms — and a resilient banking sector, and the economy has shown signs of an early recovery. Following GDP growth of 4% in 2008, Israel’s GDP slipped to 0.2% in 2009, but reached 3.4% in 2010, as exports rebounded. The global economic downturn affected Israel’s economy primarily through reduced demand for Israel’s exports in the United States and E.U., Israel’s top trading partners. Exports of goods and services account for about 40% of the country’s GDP. The Israeli government responded to the recession by implementing a modest fiscal stimulus package and an aggressive expansionary monetary policy, including cutting interest rates to record lows, purchasing government bonds, and intervening in the foreign currency market. The Bank of Israel began raising interest rates in the summer of 2009 when inflation rose above the upper end of the Bank’s target and the economy began to show signs of recovery.
GDP per capita: $29,800 (2010 est.); inflation: 2.6% (2010 est.); unemployment 6.4% (2010 est.).
Currency: New Israeli shekels (ILS): 3.44 new Israeli shekels equals 1 U.S. dollar (June 20, 2011).
Exports: $54.31 billion (2010 est.): machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel.
Imports: $55.6 billion (2010 est.): raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, consumer goods
Major crops/agricultural products: Citrus, vegetables, cotton; beef, poultry, dairy products.
Agriculture: 2.4% of GDP and 2% of the labor force.
Internet: Code. .il; 1.689 million (2010) hosts and 4.525 million (2009) users.
Source: CIA World Factbook