Agriculture in Israel largely depends on extensive irrigation to compensate for the shortage of rainfall. Agricultural exports include citrus and other fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. Other sizable crops are cotton, wheat, barley, peanuts, sunflowers, grapes, and olives. Poultry and livestock also are raised.
Most of the land (apart from the land belonging to non-Jews) is held in trust for the people of Israel by the state and the Jewish National Fund. The latter was set up in 1901 to buy land in Palestine for Jews to cultivate, and now implements a wide range of forest and land development activities. The Israel Land Authority leases the land to kibbutzim, which are communal agricultural settlements; to moshavim, which are cooperative agricultural communities; and to other agricultural or rural villages.
High-technology industries are Israel's fastest-growing businesses, with emphasis on computers, software, aviation, telecommunications, biotechnology, medical electronics, and fiber optics. Diamond cutting and polishing is also important, and a number of light industries produce wood and paper products, processed foods, tobacco, precision instruments, metal and plastic goods, chemicals, textiles, and footwear. The Dead Sea has minerals of commercial value, such as potash, magnesium bromide, and salt, and there is natural gas offshore in the Mediterranean Sea. Tourism, which is one of Israel's largest sources of revenue, is also important.
Major exports include machinery and equipment, software, high-technology and military products, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and textiles and apparel. Leading imports are raw materials, military equipment, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, and consumer goods. Although Israel imports more than it exports, the balance of trade is far more favorable now than it was in the early years of the state. The United States is by far the country's largest trading partner, as well as its major source of economic and military aid. Other important trading partners are Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.