Israel lowers tone in water dispute with
U.S. Water News Online
JERUSALEM -- Israel has no intention of going to war over
steps being taken by Lebanon to divert water from one of the
tributaries of the Jordan River, one of Israel's prime water sources,
the armed forces chief has said.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Lebanon's move to divert water
from the Hasbani River will be dealt with through diplomatic
Israel's first reaction, when the construction of a pumping
station along the Hasbani was discovered, was to send sharp messages
to Lebanon and Syria saying Israel cannot ignore the Lebanese action.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Israel treated attempts by Syria to divert
the headwaters of the Jordan River as a casus belli. Israeli tanks
and aircraft were sent to destroy Syrian bulldozers being used in
attempts to divert two other tributaries of the Jordan. The clashes
over water rights were one of the causes of the 1967 Middle East war.
But recently, Israel was stressing that it has no desire to go to
war over the Lebanese action.
``I don't think we should indulge in fiery rhetoric and should
certainly not be talking about war,'' the army's chief of staff, Lt.
Gen. Shaul Mofaz, told Israel army radio. ``We have no intentions of
Even hard-line Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said
that for Israel this was a life and death issue, adopted a more
conciliatory tone on . ``The last thing we need is a war or an
outbreak of violence on the northern border,'' he said.
On the Lebanese side of the border, work on the new pumping
station was proceeding slowly. Scores of Lebanese, apparently
attracted by Israel's protests and the international attention
aroused by the dispute, were watching the work. A Lebanese flag had
been planted in the ground at the construction site.
The Hasbani accounts for 14 percent of the water flowing into the
Sea of Galilee, Israel's biggest freshwater reservoir. Israel is
currently undergoing a water crisis and the lake is at its lowest
However Israel has been at pains to maintain quiet on its northern
border since it withdrew its forces from south Lebanon last May after
an 18-year war against Lebanese and Palestinian guerrillas.
Although Israel has no peace agreement with Syria or Lebanon, the
status quo between them on water resources has been governed by
international conventions and by an understanding brokered by the
United States in 1956, known as the Johnson Agreement.
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