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Fast Facts
Official Name: State of Israel
Population: 7,3 million (UN, 2010 est.)
Capital: Jerusalem (announced in 1950 by Israel, but all st
Government: Parliamentary democracy
Leaders: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Religion: Jewish 76%, Muslim 16%
Languages: Hebrew is the official language. Arabic serves as official language for the Arab minority
GDP: $219.4 billion (CIA 2010 est.)
GDP/Capita: $29,800 (CIA 2010 est.)
Main exports: Machinery and equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles and apparel
Time zone: GMT + 2
International dialing code: 972 (Israel) / 970 (Palestinian territories)
Currency: 1 Israeli Shekel (ILS) = USD 8
Country briefing
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Israel finds itself at the center of Middle East politics. A history of violence and turmoil has its roots in the displacement of Palestinians that has occurred since the early 20th century. Part of the problem stemmed from the Balfour Declaration in 1917 in which Britain stated that they favored a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, a territory mainly occupied by Arabs. In reality, Jews had immigrated decades before, but the declaration changed everything, granting Jews a safeguard in the British Empire. Tensions followed with heavy fighting, and the Jewish community managed to establish its own governing councils, which also meant that they were better equipped to maintain control when the British finally left Palestine in the 1940s. In 1948, Israel became an independent nation-state, leaving Palestinians without a country of their own. During this period, millions of Palestinians were forced from their homes. The Palestinians who stayed now mainly live in Gaza and the West Bank, and the two regions function as autonomous entities with elective governments exempt from Israeli influence.