Israel (Hebrew: Yisrael, Biblical meaning "overcoming mighty powers," as Jacob struggled with an angel) is the state formed in the aftermath of World War II for the Jews of the world. It was felt in many places that the Jewish nation needed its own state to protect it from anti-Semitism and prevent any future Holocaust. Jewish immigration had been steadily growing since the late 19th Century, and after WWII, the League of Nations formed a mandate for a homeland for Jewish people but called it Palestine. Because of the historical associations with the Jewish people, the area was re-given to them and the name changed to Israel.
Roots of Conflict
Up to the 1920s, Jews and Arabs, by and large, lived peacefully. However, the situation changed with the instigations of the Mufti and Haj Amin Al Husseini (who later met and made a pact with Adolf Hitler) to "kill all Jews wherever they are."
            Egyptian cleric: The Jews "are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing." [March 6, 2009 ] They keep telling us that it isn't about "stolen land," and that land concessions and even the creation of a Palestinian state will not end the conflict. And we keep refusing to believe it. 
A certain amount of dislocation for the existing Arab population, was always recognized as necessary for the creation of a Jewish homeland. However, unlimited migration, restricted by religion, with little or no mitigation of the hardships of the indigenous population has always been seen a contentious decision. Many in the Arab world saw the creation of a Jewish homeland as an act of Colonialism, and many of the surrounding states (after achieving independence) made plans to destroy or contain the state of Israel. In the early wars, the Arab forces greatly outnumbered the Israeli forces, but the Israelis were triumphant.
Since then, there has been ongoing strife with resistance by organizations devoted to the cause of the pre-existing indigenous Arabic people, commonly known as Palestinians. In fighting this and in trying to construct a Jewish nation-state, the IDF has often been criticized for repressing the Palestinians and for seizing their territory. These issues are considered highly contentious to this day. Supporters of Israel point out that some of the enemies of Israel like Hamas have the declared aim of driving Israel into the sea. Other Arab nations in the area could easily provide homes for the Palestinians but they don't do so (apart from Syria, that is), either because they want the Palestinians to be Poor and desperate and to fight Israel,  or because they want the Palestinians to get their own land back, or at least keep what little of Palestine they still live on. Unsurprisingly this level of enmity encourages both sides to vote for increasingly militaristic parties.
Israel is currently controlled by the right-wing Likud party, but its media tends to have a Liberal edge. Israeli policies tend to regard the Arab community, at least the citizen Arab community, as an underprivileged minority. This can be seen in disputing land issues, exempting Arabs from army duties, and providing Arabs affirmative action in education and employment. However, Israel has also taken militaristic approaches, attempting to secure its borders, expand the territory under it's control, and imposing blockades in light of rocket attacks and bombings from within.
Israel has long been a strong ally of the United States, and this alliance has broad support among American politicians. However, Conservatives are kind of creepy and religious about it, supporting Israel for the sole reason that (as they believe) once all Jews are back in Israel the Second Coming will arrive (fundamentalist Christian Zionism). That might be acceptable to far-right Israelis, since it gives them cover to pursue their extreme agenda, but it makes the more progressive Israelis and their supporters awfully uncomfortable.
Israel is a country in southwest Asia located on the southeastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest.
The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi). The total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).
The United Nations has recognised Israel's right to exist but has consistently asked Israel to withdraw to the frontier it had before the 1967 war. Israel has refused to do this. A large part of Israel's fresh water supply comes from the Golan Heights, and Israel claims that forfeiting the Golan Heights would endanger its national security. 
The United States, Germany, and India are among Israel's closest allies, Turkey was also considered a friend until the Israelis killed a number of Turks who were trying to get "aid" into Gaza. The United States was the first country to recognize the State of Israel, followed by the Soviet Union. The United States regards Israel as its primary ally in the Middle East, based on similar political and religious values, well the United States has some very good values like support for Democracy.
Israel is one of the few states in the Middle East to have any kind of gay rights as most other states in that area are Muslim states and the Sharia isn't supportive of gays. Most Arabic gay rights organizations meet in Israel. Gay marriage ceremonies are permitted but aren't legally recognised.