JERUSALEM, Aug. 27 (JTA) — Israel has decided to build a dam on territory claimed by Syria, a move that could further heighten tensions between the two countries. The new dam site is one mile further upstream on the Yarmuk River than a site selected by the previous Labor government, according to Israeli officials. Along with threatening a further deterioration on the Israeli-Syrian track — the two sides have not held negotiations for more than a year – – the decision to build the dam at the new site could embarrass Jordan. The new site at El Hama, located at the foot of the Golan Heights, lies on land that is within Israel’s recognized international boundaries. But it is inside the border that separated Israel and Syria before the 1967 Six-Day War, and Syria has demanded a return to that border as a condition for signing a peace treaty with Israel. Even the previous Labor government balked at that demand, which would give Syria all of the Golan Heights right up to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The announced new site has put Jordan on the defensive. The historic October 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan included a provision for the construction of a dam somewhere on the two countries’ border and called for Jordan to divert some of the water for its own purposes after the dam was built. Jordanian Foreign Minister Fayez Tarawneh said this week only that the dam would be built on non-disputed land, adding that the initial site for the project had been ruled out because it was discovered to be an archaeological site. Tarawneh made the remarks after Israel’s water commissioner, Meir Ben-Meir, told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz Monday that Jordan had agreed to build the dam on the new site.
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