Israel Government Warns Lebanon on Diversion of Jordan River Waters

The Israel Foreign Ministry warned today that Israel “views with full gravity” any water diversion work being done in Lebanon. At the same time, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, chief of staff of Israel’s defense forces, warned Lebanon that its Government would “bear the responsibility for the consequences” if it persisted in water diversion work.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement on the issue came from the Ministry’s spokesman who commented on reports that Lebanon has resumed work on diverting a stream which feeds a tributary of the Jordan River, and that Lebanon has explained that the work is only of a “token nature.” The spokesman also noted that the Israel Government has “exchanged views” on this subject with various “friendly countries.” He denied that Israel has made special representations to France on this issue, noting that such exchanges have been had with a number of friendly countries.

Gen. Rabin’s statement came in an address to a new graduating class of freshly commissioned Israel Army officers. He noted that Syrian water diversion schemes have not yet been shelved despite the fact the Israeli army had scored two direct hits on Syrian equipment used for such work. “A second country,” he said, “is also proceeding with diversion operations.” That reference was obviously to Lebanon.

“Those going on with such work,” he declared, “will have to bear responsibility for the consequences.” The Arab projects are aimed to divert waters from streams that ultimately or directly feed into the Jordan River, whence Israel now uses waters for its National Water Garrier aiding irrigation in the northern Negev region.

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