Sharett Reveals His Talks with Johnston; Points to Disagreement
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Sharett Reveals His Talks with Johnston; Points to Disagreement

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Premier Moshe Sharett today told Israel and the world what he and Eric Johnston, President Eisenhower’s personal envoy, had discussed in relation to the American and Israeli plans for development of the Jordan River Valley. At a press conference he outlined points of agreement and disagreement between the American and Israeli negotiators. He explained the United States attitude toward the entire problem, as it had been outlined for him.

Mr. Sharett said that the purpose of the talks last week was to clarify the possibility of coordinating various plans to use the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers for irrigation and hydroelectric power purposes for all countries having rights to these rivers. The immediate object of the talks, he stated, was to arrive at an initial arrangement for a division of the water, so that work could be started without delay on specific projects. He stressed that Israel opposition had been expressed on the following points:

1. Israel was unable to accept Ambassador Johnston’s principle that only Jordan Valley lands should be irrigated with water from these projects. Israel demanded that the water be used to irrigate much wider areas. As a result of this argument at cross-purposes, the Premier noted, no agreement was reached on this point.

2. Israel refused to accept any form of international supervision of these water resources, despite Mr. Johnston’s explanation that he had in mind a neutral body whose function would be merely to supervise the allocation of specific quantities of water which had been agreed to by each country, from a common water resource.

The Premier underlined the fact that Israel had taken a favorable view of the settlement of a certain number of Arab refugees in the Jordan Valley, but had stated that it considered the quantities of water set aside in the Johnston plan for such purposes as being exaggerated.

He said that Israel had not yet received any direct information concerning a preliminary understanding between Mr. Johnston and the Arab states. Israel’s attitude on any plan which finally emerges will depend entirely on whether it will assure that the proposed distribution of water secures Israel’s rights and provides for Israel’s vital needs in the period immediately ahead, as well as in the more distant future, he declared.


In response to questions from the newsmen, Mr. Sharett denied that the American delegation had threatened to cut off American aid to Israel in the event the latter rejects the Johnston plan. He said the United States position in this matter is that of a mediator offering assistance to settle a serious dispute, desiring the development of the entire area and the elimination of a possible international dispute. The United States, he continued, is also interested in a settlement of the Arab refugee problem which is costing the U.S. considerable sums of money without tangible results.

He said that at no time was there any talk of Israel making territorial concessions as a condition of the carrying out of a regional water scheme. He declared that Israel would take no further action in the matter until full clarification had been received from Mr. Johnston.

Mr. Johnston, he reported, had rejected the Israeli suggestion for inclusion of the Litani River in the regional development scheme because Lebanon, within whose borders alone the Litani flows, refuses to agree to its inclusion.

The Premier said that Israel had specific rights to the Yarmuk River, most of whose course lies in Jordan because: the river constitutes its border for nine kilometers; Israel uses Yarmuk water at present and has specific riparian rights to it; the Palestine Electric Corporation has a concession involving the Yarmuk; and, finally, the specific plan put forward involves the construction of a dam for the Yarmuk in Israel territory.

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