Israel Asks Washington to Clarify Statement on Jordan Water Issue

Israel has requested the American Administration in Washington to clarify reports that have quoted United States State Department officials as warning Israel against the use of force to prevent the Arab plans to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River.

The subject was discussed here this weekend by Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, and Ambassador Walworth Barbour, U.S. envoy to Israel, whom she had invited to the Foreign Ministry.

Officials here did not hide their displeasure at attempts to link the water diversion issue with supply of arms to Israel and with the joint U.S.-Israel desalination project, which has not yet been finalized. Recent negotiations with the United States on the supply of arms were aimed to preserve the arms balance in the Middle East, and involved no conditions, it was said.

If conditions had been placed, Israel would not have entered such negotiations, officials in the office of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol indicated today. They added that, in recent Israeli talks with Washington and London, Israel was given no warning about her reaction to the Arab attempts to divert Jordan waters.

Officials here speculated whether the reports from Washington emanated from authoritative quarters, since they are incompatible with the spirit and letter of recent talks between Israel and the United States.

Referring to the admonishment attributed to Washington officials about the possible war threat inherent in Israel’s intention to prevent Arab water diversion by force, officials here remarked that it is the Arab plans to divert the Jordan headwaters, and the Arab voicing of intentions to destroy Israel, that threaten the stability of the region–not the other way around. Even Ambassador Barbour himself, it was reported, displayed surprise over the reports from Washington.

On Thursday night, the United States Embassy issued a statement, reaffirming United States support of the Eric Johnston plan as an effective way for distributing the Jordan River waters, and voicing the hope that the riparian states would reach a just arrangement on the waters. It was assumed here that the Embassy’s statement was issued to offset the impression created by the comments by Washington officials.

In the course of the meeting between Mr. Barbour and Mrs. Meir, the diplomats discussed also the Washington report that the United States was ready to send arms to four Arab states as well as to Israel.

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