Israel: Background and Relations with the United States [Updated August 21, 2007] [open pdf - 281KB]
From the Summary: "On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence and was immediately engaged in a war with all of its neighbors. Armed conflict has marked every decade of Israel's existence. Despite its unstable regional environment, Israel has developed a vibrant parliamentary democracy, albeit with relatively fragile governments. The Kadima Party placed first in the March 28, 2006, Knesset (parliament) election; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert formed a four-party coalition government, which another party has since joined. Israel has an advanced industrial, market economy in which the government plays a substantial role. Israel's foreign policy is focused largely on its region, Europe, and the United States. The government views Iran as an existential threat due to its nuclear ambitions and support for anti-Israel terrorists. Israel concluded peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 but never achieved accords with Syria and Lebanon. It negotiated a series of agreements with the Palestinians in the 1990s, but the Oslo peace process ended in 2000, with the Palestinian 'intifadah' or uprising against Israeli occupation. Israeli and Palestinian officials accepted but never implemented the 'Roadmap,' the international framework for achieving a two-state solution to their conflict. Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in summer 2005 and is constructing a security barrier in the West Bank to separate from the Palestinians. The Hamas victory in January 2006 Palestinian elections complicated Israeli-Palestinian relations. Then, in June, the Hamas military wing kidnapped an Israeli soldier, provoking an Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33476