U.S. Non-committal on Israel’s Canal Project

Israeli government plans to dig at a cost of $700 million a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea that Israeli planners hope will provide hydro-electric power by 1990 drew a cautious non-committal position from the United States today.

Under the initial planning for the canal, an old idea that Zionist founder. Theodor Herzl had advanced, the waterway would go through the Gaza Strip, whose future political status is unresolved. But Israelis have said it could bypass Gaza at an additional cost of $60 million if that posed a problem. They also are reported here as saying that the canal would benefit Jordan, which shares the Dead Sea with Israel.

State Department spokesman David Passage said the proposal for the project was “developed within the Israeli government” and that he is “unaware of any U.S. government involvement in it.” Passage added: “We will be studying the implications” and that the U.S. would be “talking to all interested parties.” Passage suggested that the Israelis “apparently are talking with Jordan” about it. Asked about the legality of the canal passing through Gaza, Passage said he would not offer “any quick decision.”

On another issue, Passage said he had no comment on a radio report that Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat had charged the U.S. is supporting Israel’s incursions in south Lebanon. The spokesman also said he had no information on a statement from Kuwait by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad calling on the U.S. to open direct talks with the PLO. The minister was reported as saying that the U.S. would be rewarded for such a move with an immediate softening of the PLO’s stand toward Israel.

Passage also said that the U.S. is not taking any position regarding possible shifts of embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv by countries that have them now in Jerusalem. He said that is a “national decision” by those countries. Regarding reports that Israel may annex the Golan Heights, Passage said that the U.S. views the Golan as “occupied territory” whose “status remains to be worked out in the context of international talks and not by unilateral acts.”

Meanwhile, the State Department issued a statement saying “we are deeply concerned over the bombings that took, place in Israel yesterday” and added, “We condemn those repulsive and unwarranted acts and those who claim responsibility for these.”

NEXT STORY