Israel (1948-)Stamp-issuing status: active; Population: 5,534,672. Republic in western Asia, comprising the former British mandated territory of Palestine. Under the British mandate, Jewish and Arab elements in Palestine came into bitter conflict over the future of the nation. The Jews wished to create a homeland for their people, while the Arabs advocated the creation of a secular Palestinian state in which the rights of the Jewish minority would be respected. On May 14, 1948, British troops were withdrawn from Palestine, and the Jewish National Council immediately proclaimed the state of Israel in areas of the country under Jewish control. Israel was immediately attacked by its Arab neighbors but defeated their forces, emerging from the 1949 cease-fire with its territory approximately 50 percent larger than that initially allocated for it by the U.N. partition plan. In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and barred Israeli shipping. Israel invaded Egypt and occupied Gaza and the Sinai. After U.N. intervention, Israel withdrew. In 1967, after a year of Arab guerrilla raids from Jordan and bombardment of Israeli settlements from Syria, war again broke out. Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the Six-Day War, occupying the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and Sinai and Gaza from Egypt. On Oct. 6, 1973, after several years of failure to negotiate a settlement, Arab forces attacked Israel again, re-occupying some lost territory in the Sinai. After initial Arab gains, Israel counterattacked quickly, occupying territory on the west bank of the Suez Canal and advancing in Syria. A cease-fire was negotiated Oct. 24. Peace negotiations proceeded very slowly during 1973-77, but began to move rapidly after November 1977, when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem in an attempt to break the deadlock. On March 26, 1979, Egypt and Israel signed a formal peace treaty, ending hostilities and establishing diplomatic relations. Under the terms of the peace treaty, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt. Relations between Israel and its neighbors continue to be strained, although a 1993 agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which led the terrorist resistance to Israel, makes an eventual settlement possible. Israel and the Palestine authority, the autonomous Palestinian state created under PLO direction, maintain a strained negotiation for the eventual creation of an independent Arab Palestine alongside a Jewish Israel, recognized by its Muslim neighbors.
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