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Arab Rulers Agree ‘in Principle’ on Joint Action Against Israel

September 9, 1964
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The Arab summit meeting at Alexandria, Egypt, where 13 kings and other heads of Arab states have been conferring since Saturday night, agreed in principle today on joint military operations against Israel. But the participants differed widely on the timing of such operations and on details of the formation of the command, according to Egyptian dispatches received here today.

The joint command plan, which is being kept secret, is based on the theory that Israel would attack some of the Arab states just as soon as the Arabs started their project for diverting the headwaters and tributaries of the Jordan River, to keep Israel from benefiting from its new national water carrier. That carrier is to use Jordan River water, through Lake Tiberias, for the irrigation of the upper reaches of the Negev Desert.

The principal stumbling block against implementation of the joint Arab command has reportedly come from Lebanon’s new President-elect, Charles Halou, as well as from Jordan’s King Hussein. Both fear that a joint Arab League command would result in the placing of foreign Arab troops in their countries under the aegis of Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

While the secret plans for the new command have been forwarded for detailed discussion by the Higher Arab Joint Defense Council, Mr. Halou warned against premature execution of the headwater diversion plan by the construction of a dam in Jordan. He argued that, while Egypt is strong enough to fight Israel, three of the Arab states bordering on Israel–Jordan, Lebanon and Syria–might have to bear the brunt of an Israeli attack “before the Egyptians had time to defeat the enemy. “


In view of the fact that Lebanon would not be strong enough to resist an Israeli attack, he said, the Arab summit should first allow his country sufficient time to build up its army. The other Arab states, he insisted, must help Lebanon by supplying arms, before the water plan of the Arab states is executed.

A warning that the Arab states must expect large-scale Israeli attacks against Jordan and Syria, and possibly also against Lebanon, was voiced at the conference by Egypt’s Marshal Aly Amer, chief of the joint Arab forces. Such an attack, he said, would come the moment the Arab project for drawing off the Jordan River headwaters is started. He agreed with President Alou that Egypt alone is strong enough “to confront Israel. ” Nevertheless, the conference instructed the Joint Defense Council to determine methods for quick strengthening of the Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese armies.

Egypt was reported insisting that the Arab water withdrawal plan be started immediately, assuring the other Arab states that it would “deal with Israel” before Israel had time to harm Jordan, Syria or Lebanon. Abdul Khalek Hassouna, secretary-general of the Arab League, had requested earlier that the summit meeting issue instructions for starting the water withdrawal project at once.

An Alexandria correspondent for the Times of London reported today that, “as the days pass, it becomes clearer that the Arabs cannot so dovetail their plans as to be able to proceed immediately (with the headwater plan). The stationing of armies (on non-Egyptian Arab soil) bristles with too many difficulties. All inquiries on the exact nature and technical details of the proposed work on the Jordan River tributaries have so far not been answered. Until some decision is reached on military support, no decisions can be taken on the technical side. “

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