UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Dec. 17)
The United Nations Security Council today heard the views of Israel and Syria with regard to the resolution proposed jointly by the United States, Britain and France placing full authority for settlement of the Israel-Syrian dispute over the Jordan River hydroelectric project in the hands of Gen. Vagn Bennike, UN Chief of Staff in Palestine.
Israel Ambassador Abba Eban declared that continuation of work on the project would have a beneficial effect on the entire region. He emphasized that Syria’s complaint against this project aims at strangling Israel’s vital economic interests.
To deny Syria’s complaint would do no harm to any individual in Syria or to Syria’s economic development, he said. On the other hand, to uphold the Syrian complaint would mean “deadly prejudice” to Israel’s capacity for development and for improvement of its living standards, and would transform the armistice agreement into something never intended, the representative of Israel argued.
Israel had undertaken to keep its armed forces out of the demilitarized zone, and would respect that undertaking, Mr. Eban continued. Israel had not, however, signed any undertaking to renounce the legitimate development projects on which its future depends. He said he was in a position to state that, if it had ever been “hinted or suggested” in 1949 that agreement to demilitarize the area meant renunciation of power and irrigation schemes dependent on that area, Israel would never have signed the agreement.
JORDAN RIVER DOES NOT FLOW IN SYRIA, EBAN STRESSES
Mr. Eban pointed out that the Jordan River was “completely non-Syrian.” There was no precedent in the history of international litigation for a “veto,” such as Syria sought, over a river that did not touch its borders. He stressed that Syria was asking the United Nations to “reinforce the blockade practices of the Arab League.” Having denied Israel power and fuel by boycott, in violation of two Security Council resolutions, the Arab states now wanted the Council to “close the gap in their siege” by denying Israel the use of the waters of the Upper Jordan, which were in Israel’s own territory, he said.
The Israel diplomat called the Huleh case a parallel to this one, and said that if Syria’s claims had been upheld, the Huleh marshes could not now be undergoing drainage. He argued that the principles involved in the Huleh case applied to other developlent schemes as well.
Reviewing the three-power draft resolution, introduced yesterday, Mr. Eban referred to the 1951 resolution relating to the Huleh drainage project, which he said had been interpreted to mean; that development projects should be facilitated, once it was proved that existing rights would not be prejudiced; that Syria’s consent was “not indispensable” and that agreement should be sought with the chief of staff and not with the Government of Syria; and that “the doctrine of military advantage is contrary to the armistice agreement” and that it was not essential to maintain “the original condition of topography” of the demilitarized zone.
Mr. Eban denied an allegation yesterday by British delegate Sir Gladwyn Jebb that Israel had “ignored” Gen. Bennike’s order to suspend work on the Jordan River project. The Israeli diplomat quoted from a letter by Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett to the UN truce chief offering temporary suspension of the work. At no stage, Mr. Eban underlined, had there been any difficulty from Israel over a temporary cessation of work.
EBAN HOPES FOR SPEEDY RESUMPTION OF WORK ON THE PROJECT
The chief of the Israel delegation said his government was convinced that the hyroelectric project, so important to Israel, was reconcilable with every legitimate private interest. These interests could be provided for, and he was prepared to give assurance that they would not be adversely affected by the project.
Work on the project had already been delayed for a considerable time, Mr. Eban pointed out, and Israel hoped that the work could speedily be resumed. Ninety days, as the resolution provides, seemed an unduly long time for achievement of a solution, he suggested, but he said that this did not, of course, mean that a solution could not be achieved earlier. What seemed to be “imperfections” in the text of the resolution could be overcome by carrying out the resolution in a spirit of harmony and good will.
The Syrian delegate, Farid Zeineddine, took great pains to draw a distinction between the resolution as presented by the U.S., Britain and France yesterday and the three speeches of the sponsors. He complained of “marked variations” in the stand taken in the speechs of the three sponsors. He sharply attacked the United States, but not by name, for permitting tax-exempt contributions to Zionist funds. The Syrian delegate was called to order by the Council chairman and told to speak on the point in question.