Israel is a narrow strip of land that lies on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean. Its entire length is 290 miles and its width ranges from nine to 85 miles. For a small country it enjoys considerable diversity, with arid desert in the south, and green, hilly, arable land in the north. 70% of the population is concentrated on the coastal plain.
Israel is a diverse and pluralistic society, home to just over seven million people. 76% of its citizens are Jews, 20% Arabs and 4% other minorities.
Israel is a thriving parliamentary democracy with a government elected by proportional representation. Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, has 120 seats, allocated in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. Parties need to win 2% of the total votes cast to win a seat, meaning the very smallest parties can win a seat in the Knesset – and often must be taken notice of, as part of the coalition building process. 34 Parties contested the last election with the parties representing every sector of Israeli society – religious, secular; Jewish parties and Arab parties; left-wing, centre, and right-wing parties. The largely ceremonial role of president is elected for seven-year terms by the Knesset. A robust Supreme Court acts as an important check on the powers of the government.
Israel is currently led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads a centre right coalition.