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The land variously called Israel and Palestine at different times in history, is a small, (10,000 square miles at present) land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. During its long history, its area, population and ownership varied greatly. The present state of Israel formally occupies all the land from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean ocean, bounded by Egypt in the south, Lebanon in the north, and Jordan in the East. The recognized borders of Israel constitute about 78% of the land. The remainder is divided between land occupied by Israel since the 1967 6-day war and the autonomous regions under the control of the Palestinian autonomy. The Gaza strip occupies an additional 141 square miles south of Israel along the sea coast, and is mostly under the control of the Palestinian authority with small areas occupied by Israeli settlements.
Prior to 1917, the territory that is now called Palestine and Israel was ruled by the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and included three sanjaks (districts). The name "Palestine," that was used by Roman and briefly by Arab rulers, was revived by the British, who received a mandate from the League of Nations to administer Palestine as a national home for the Jewish people.
Israel was created in 1948, after UN Resolution 181 partitioned the territory of the British Mandate for Palestine into two states for Jews and Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs objected to the creation of the Jewish state and fought a war against it. The Arab side lost the war, and the Palestinian state never really came into being. The territory allotted to the Palestinian state by the UN partition resolution was taken over by Israel and Jordan. About 780,000 Palestinians became refugees.
Beginning in 1993, the Oslo agreements promised gradual withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians were hopeful that this process would end in a state for them. However, the peace process was marred by terrorist attacks, Israeli proliferation of settlements and negotiations that seemed to lead nowhere. Following breakdown of the final status negotiations in the summer of 2000, riots erupted in September 2000 when Israeli right wing political leader Ariel Sharon paid a controversial visit to the temple mount, in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, holy to Muslims.. Palestinians refused to accept the agreement offered by US President Clinton in December 2000, and violence continued at least until the beginning of 2005. Israel has reoccupied large parts of the territory it had ceded to the Palestinians in the West Bank during the Oslo peace process, and continues to build settlements on Palestinian land (click for map). Election of relatively moderate Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Authority President and the Israeli disengagement plan (withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements) offered new hope of peace. See Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Since Oslo
Israel has a population of over 6.5 million, of whom about 14.5% are Muslims and about 3% are Druze or Christian. Most of the remainder are Jews. Per capita GDP is about $23,000 and literacy rates are over 95%. Life expectancy is over 75 years, and infant mortality about 7 per thousand, comparing favorably with Europe and North America. The Palestinian areas account for about 2,800 square miles of the total territory. They have a population estimated at about 3 million, per capita GDP of under $2,000, literacy rate of about 86% and infant mortality of 33 per thousand.
See also -Palestine
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