Israel and Palestinian territories country profile


POSTER BY:Omar Karem GAZA

Map of Israel and Palestinian territories

The division of the former British mandate of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel in the years after the end of World War II have been at the heart of Middle Eastern conflicts for the past half century.
The creation of Israel was the culmination of the Zionist movement, whose aim was a homeland for Jews scattered all over the world following the Diaspora. After the Nazi Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state, and in 1948 Israel came into being.

Israeli president: Shimon Peres

The Israeli president has a mainly ceremonial role; executive power is vested in the cabinet, headed by the prime minister.

Shimon Peres

Israel’s elder statesman: Shimon Peres

On 13 June 2007, the Israeli parliament chose the veteran politician Shimon Peres to succeed Moshe Katsav, who had taken leave of absence from the presidency earlier in the year after being accused of various sexual offences.

Mr Katsav formally resigned on 29 June after agreeing to plead guilty to several of the offences as part of a plea bargain that removed two rape charges against him.

Israeli prime minister: Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, became prime minister after an inconclusive early election in February 2009, a decade after holding the office once before.

Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu

Mr Netanyahu campaigned on a policy of toughness towards Palestinian militancy

The vote was called when his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, of the centrist Kadima party, resigned amid corruption allegations, and Mr Olmert’s designated successor, Tzipi Livni, failed to put together a new centre-left coalition.

Mrs Livni and Kadima actually won one more seat in the Knesset (parliament) than Likud, but right-wing parties emerged stronger than the left overall.

ISRAELI MEDIA

Israel’s press and broadcasters are many and varied, and account for differences in language, political viewpoint and religious outlook.

An Israeli holds the Jerusalem Post newspaper

The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), set up along the lines of the BBC, operates public radio and TV services and is funded mainly by licence fees on TV sets.

Channel 2 and Israel 10 are the main commercial TV networks. Most Israeli households subscribe to cable or satellite packages. HOT cable and YES satellite TV are the main multichannel providers.

Commercial radio arrived in 1995, but faces competition from unlicensed radio stations, some of which carry ultra-Orthodox programming.

Israel has 13 daily newspapers and at least 90 weeklies. All titles are privately-owned; many are available on the internet.

In the view of watchdog Reporters Without Borders, “the Israeli authorities are capable of both best and worst practice when it comes to respect for press freedom. Despite military censorship, its press still enjoys latitude that is unequalled in the region.”

Israel has a large IT industry and one of the world’s most technologically-literate populations. Around 5.3 million people – around 71% of the population – had internet access by May 2008 (InternetWorldStats).

Palestinian leader: Mahmoud Abbas

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of the Fatah faction, won the January 2005 poll to replace the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mahmoud Abbas

President Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat as PLO leader

Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, had already succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), having been Mr Arafat’s deputy since 1969.

The surprise victory of the militant Islamic movement Hamas in parliamentary polls in January 2006 led to heightened tension between the Palestinian factions. There were recurring bouts of violence between Hamas and Mr Abbas’s Fatah faction, raising fears of civil war. In February 2007, Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a government of national unity.

However, in June 2007 Hamas took control of the Gaza strip, seriously challenging the concept of a coalition, which Abbas subsequently dissolved.

Ismail Haniyeh
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh

Mr Abbas’s current term was set to have ended in January 2009, but in 2008 announced he was extending his term by another year, in order to allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held at the same time. The move was denounced by Hamas.

In November 2009, Mr Abbas said he would not stand again in elections scheduled for 24 January 2010, in protest against the continuing impasse in attempts to resurrect peace talks with Israel.

Many analysts regard Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate. He has condemned the armed Palestinian uprising and favours the resumption of negotiations with Israel. But he faces the challenge of persuading armed groups to stop their campaign of anti-Israeli attacks.

Mahmoud Abbas was born in 1935 in Safed, a town in present-day northern Israel. He co-founded Fatah – the main political grouping within the PLO – with Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s.

He established contacts with left-wing Israelis in the 1970s and was the main Palestinian architect of the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to the foundation of the Palestinian Authority.

His brief stint as premier was plagued by power struggles with Mr Arafat over the control of the Palestinian security apparatus and over planned reforms. Mr Abbas resigned in September 2003.

The former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital on 11 November 2004, aged 75.    

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  1. September 27, 2014 at 2:05 am

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