London (Jul. 30)
Britain today launched a surprise attack on Israel’s plan to construct a hydro-electric station on the shores of the Dead Sea with sea water channelled from the Mediterranean.
Douglas Hurd, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said that “the project as planned is contrary to international law as it involves unlawful works in occupied territory and infringes Jordan’s legal rights in the Dead Sea and neighboring regions.” He added that no official support would be given by the British government in respect of the project.
Hurd’s remarks, in reply to Conservative Member of Parliament Richard Needham, took Israeli circles here by surprise. The Foreign Office had previously expressed no official interest in the canal project and there have been discussions about it with the Israel Embassy.
MAIN CRITICISM IS FROM JORDAN
The main criticism so far has come from the Jordanian government, whose motives are believed to be fundamentally political. Jordanian engineers, however, have been divided about the effects of the canal on Jordan’s own Dead Sea works. Some of them have said that the canal from the Mediterranean will help to replenish water lost to the Dead Sea as a result of Jordan River irrigation schemes by both Jordan and Israel.
Hurd’s assurance that Britain would not help Israel will have no immediate effect because so far Israel has not approached foreign governments or international institutions over the project.
Israel is trying to raise the first $100 million of the $1 billion project in the form of low interest bonds from sympathetic private investors. So far, Israel is believed to have raised the first $50 million of this seed money with the help of the world-wide Israel Bond Organization. Some $2 million worth of bonds have been sold in Britain.