Israel: Middle East powerhouse
Paris, Sep 16: Israel, which holds legislative elections on September 17 for the second time this year, has become a major power in the Middle East over the last half century or so.
It declared its birth as a Jewish nation in 1948.
Israel has fought multiple wars and occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem, while the Israel-Palestinian peace process has been dead since 2014.
Here are some facts about the country.
Israel is considered the leading military power in the Middle East and is believed to be the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons.
It gets nearly $4 billion in military aid each year from the United States.
On May 14, 1948, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion proclaims the creation of the State of Israel in part of Palestine, three years after the end of World War II and the extermination of more than six million Jews by the Nazis.
The next day Arab armies go to war against the new state, which wins a crushing victory in 1949. More than 760,000 Palestinians are driven to exodus by advancing Jewish troops.
Officially Israel has been through eight wars, including the Six-Day War of June 1967.
In that conflict it took more Palestinian territory, occupying the West Bank, east Jerusalem -- which it went on to annex -- and the Gaza Strip.
Israel also took parts of the Golan Heights from Syria and Sinai from Egypt, before returning Sinai in 1982.
The last war was in 2014, in the Gaza Strip.
Two peace treaties have been signed with Arab nations: in 1979 with Egypt, and in 1994 with Jordan.
Some 600,000 Israeli settlers have an uneasy coexistence with three million Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005; the Palestinian enclave has been controlled by Islamist movement Hamas since 2007.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its undivided capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.
There have been two Palestinian uprisings, known as intifadas -- the first began in 1987 and lasted six years; the second in 2000.
The first ended with the 1993 signing in Washington of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
It marked the start of a process, never finalised, aimed at granting Palestinians the right to self-determination.
Israel has sought to avoid direct involvement in the Syrian civil war that began in 2011. But it has targeted regime backers Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah with hundreds of attacks on Syrian soil.
Its goal is to stop its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.
Israel's population has increased tenfold since 1948, reaching nearly nine million.
The country has very low unemployment, almost non-existent inflation -- after a bout of hyperinflation in the mid 1980s -- and economic growth of nearly three percent.
But more than one fifth of the population lives in poverty.
Israel's high-tech sector -- an industry that has given it the nickname the "start-up nation" -- is seen as a global leader, particularly in the fields of cyber defence and surveillance.
Dozens of foreign companies have opened research and development centres in Israel over the years.
The high-tech sector accounts for 43 percent of Israel's exports, according to the economy ministry. -AFP