American Jewish Committee Issues Study on Jordan River Waters

An extensive, documented analysis of the issues involved in harnessing the Jordan River system, published here today, concludes that the current water diversion projects of both Israel and Jordan “do not, at the present time, conflict with one another.”

However, the report warns that a future clash cannot be ruled out as long as Jordan actively supports the Arab League’s plans to block full implementation of Israel’s National Water Carrier by diverting the Jordan River’s headwaters. Israel’s Carrier has begun to pump water from Lake Tiberias southward to the coastal plain and the Negev.

Based on a close examination of official Jordanian Government and Arab League sources as well as technical data, the study finds that if Jordan were to cooperate fully with Syria and Lebanon to implement the Arab League’s complete diversion plan, “it could ultimately diminish the amount of Jordan water reaching Israel by one-third or more.”

Such action “undoubtedly would heighten Jordan-Israel tension.” in view of the Israel Government’s declarations that Israel would “act to protect her vital rights” on the water question. The report cites indications, however, that Jordan may be reluctant to take part in excessive diversion actions.

The comprehensive study of the water issue in the Middle East was issued by the American Jewish Committee. The study was prepared by George E. Gruen, a member of the Committee’s Foreign Affairs Department and a specialist on Middle Eastern affairs.

Covered in the report are the international developments on this issue, as well as the current status of the various plans in the political, military and water diversion fields, adopted by the recent Arab League summit conferences in Cairo and Alexandria to counter Israel’s water project. The Soviet Union and Communist China are continuing to support the position of the Arab League, the study points out. The United States has been backing “Israel’s current efforts.” the report states.

The planned extension of the Jordanian canal is expected to continue to receive American backing as long as it remains within the framework of the Eric Johnston Flan, according to the report. However, according to a State Department spokesman cited in the report, “in case the Arab states attempt to frustrate the Israeli plan by other counter-diversion projects, the United States would oppose such projects if it appeared that the Arab riparian states combined were off taking waters in excess of the combined allocations to the Arab states specified in the 1955 plan.”

The report finds that crucial factors will be the ultimate size and eventual use of the Mukheiba and Maqarin dams, which the Jordanian Government is preparing to construct on the Yarmuk River, as part of a large-scale irrigation and power development program in the Yarmuk-Jordan Valley region. The Mukheiba dam is also a key element in the Arab League’s diversion plan.

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