I feel it is necessary to begin my report today from the beginning. I believe it would be appropriate to remind you that we are faced here with facts established in time immemorial – as providence or nature had had it, rivers in our region are riparian. Indeed, there are also rivers flowing within the borders of one state only, such as the Yarkon, although I am not sure its sources are not in Jordan [i.e., in the West Bank]; but certainly the Litani flows in its entirety inside Lebanon. However, the two main rivers that our waters depend on in great deal, and at present perhaps decisively – the Jordan and the Yarmuk – are riparian.
On this general background two problems arise: one is the rights of the various [other] riparian states – Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – regarding these waters. The other is the concrete control over these waters, and hence the resulting of all kinds of mutual interference, physically or politically.
In fact, during the last two years, two practical problems have occurred. Jordan started, or was about to start, implementing its plan of storing the Yarmuk waters and use them to irrigate both the western and eastern banks of the Jordan Valley for the purpose of settling Palestinian refugees. This plan, from its start, was based on American technical and financial support with the aim of initiating, somewhere in the Middle East, the settling of refugees who would make their living by intensive agriculture, so that as many refugees as possible would be rehabilitated within a limited area.
The second project was our plan to divert the Jordan River near the B’not Yaakov Bridge, and the whole plan involved making the waters flow in a canal starting near that bridge towards the Bet Netofa Valley [in the Galilee] for their storage there.
If we search for the root and point of departure of the American initiative in this matter, which have brought about Eric Johnston’s mission, we would find them in these two projects. It is not that originally there was an American initiative, or an American plot, or any American generosity, against which background the two parties were to find out what each could do for himself. The process was the opposite. We thought of our plan on the background of our water planning made during the period of the British Mandate, before the state was established. The plans prepared with the help of our experts in various stages by American experts, such as Lowdermilk, Hays and Cotton, are well known.
The Jordanians at a certain stage started thinking seriously about resettling refugees, and the UN organizations supported them in this matter. When the Jordanian Yarmuk plan became known to us, we appealed against it and declared ourselves as having riparian rights there. We declared publicly and in a special note to the US that this Jordanian plan could not be executed without satisfying our rights. I will not enter into details here. We declared our rights as a riparian state and on account of our controling the demilitarized zone in which the Jordanian dam [on the Yarmuk] was to be erected, and also on the basis of the Electric Company’s rights. We said that we were ready to agree to a multi-national water arrangement, to conducting direct negotiations with the neighboring state for the purpose of appropriately and fairly dividing the water sources between us and them. But if they would not agree to this, if they thought that they could use the waters flowing inside their territories as their own, then we would not forego our rights; we would appeal. But in the meantime we would consider ourselves free to use the waters flowing within our territory.
Later the matter of the B’not Yaakov Bridge arose. I will not recapitulate here the whole development of the issue. The committee members are cognizant of it. Work there was stopped.
In the meantime a wholesale American initiative occurred. The Americans stopped work on the Yarmuk according to the original plan. They stopped it, as far as we know, because they found out that its cost would be too high and because they realized it might possibly clash with our plans. Thus they probably said to themselves that it would be better if they examinne possibilities of an all-inclusive settlement.
I am not claiming that the Americans are only aiming at helping undeveloped countries in their development projects. While this aim is there, they are doing this because they think that their interests would be enhanced. They see development projects and the raising of populations’ standard of living as a bulwark against communism, as well as a way of gaining sympathy towards the United States. But there is no doubt that a serious international and political consideration is involved here: the consideration of preventing conflicts and clashes whose eruption would harm the United States in her direct relations with the clashing parties, or would have a negative impact on her position at the UN, since such conflicts might oblige the Americans to take a decisive stand and consequently become embroiled on side or the other when it is better for her interests that she follows a line which doesn’t oblige her to intervene.
It is also possible that there is yet another consideration here: that America, being involved in development projects, can thereby become more deeply entrenched in the area so that it can more easily intervene in conflicts inasmuch as they occur in the future. I certainly would not ignore this possibility, but I am convinced it is not fundamental; it only arises in the course of their becoming involved in such projects. I am sure that the process has not started simply one fine day on which the President summoned Johnston and said to him: “Listen, we have an opportunity to do a lucrative business, let’s do it also because it would enhance American influence.” No, the process was different. It did not evolve top-down, but bottom-upwards. It started with initiatives taken inside the region, and these created possibilities for American support while, at the same time, threatening the United States with involvement in conflicts.
This is how the United States has become an established factor, or in this matter a factor who initiated its involvement, who proposed itself to the parties as both a mediator and financier. In other words, the United States proposed its mediation because the matter at hand is urgent, because the Arabs want to start implementing their project and the Jews want to carry out theirs. It is not something that can await the coming of the Messiah, that is, it cannot wait till peace between the parties is achieved. No. The Israelis need this now for their developing economy, for advancing their intensive agriculture. And the same goes for the Arabs who are interested in resettling the refugees, which is a project of vital interest to the Americans as well, because they are constantly feeding these people, being the main contributor of money to UNRWA, money that is not producing any assets and is not solving the problem. America is thus interested in expediting the process and in preventing its delay. On the contrary, it feels that a beginning of the resolution of the refugee problem may bring peace nearer. It is impossible to postpone the resettlement of refugees till peace is achieved and it is necessary to extricate this question from the context of peacemaking; it is incumbent to try executing it before peace arrives, while hoping it will expedite peace.
And if this matter is to be carried out before peace, it cannot be carried out by direct contact and direct negotiations between the two parties. The Arabs will not sit together with the Israelis around one table even if the Israelis agree to take this matter out of the general framework of peace. A mediation is thus necessary, and the United States offers its mediation in order to awaken the impulse towards peace. And in order to secure tangible progress it is offering financial support for the execution of these projects.
This is my general introduction to the background. We have not found it at all wise to say “No” to this proposal right at the beginning. We could not say that we are not interested in testing possibilities of development projects and developing coordinated water plans on this basis, for we could only lose; we gain nothing from such a negative position. We must weigh every step we take, any direction we take, in terms of what would have happened had we not taken it. We would not have bettered our international chances of renewing work at the B’not Yaakov Bridge and its uninterrupted execution by an a priori refusal to consider any attempt at solving this dispute by an international settlement. On the contrary, we would have worsened by far the difficulties which we are facing anyway. We would have thereby freed the United States to take a negative stand against us. [- - -] Not only would we be unable to rely on the United States support, but we would have aroused it against us.
It was thus incumbent on us to consider the possible consequences in advance. Refusal of a settlement would have meant our relying on our own forces and the other party relying on its forces. And the question would have been: who will gain and who lose in this catch-as-catch-can freedom of establishing facts? Accordingly, a principled decision was taken to try out this course and carry it out within limits of time and of compromise.
From that point a series of talks began with Johnston, and we have now reached the third one. I will now discuss this last one.
As Johnston himself summed it up, we said at the beginning of this round of negotiations that we were interested, as before, in a multinational arrangement and in the developing of the water resources by peaceful means. We do not see the subject of the talks, and we cannot define it as, a regional water plan, because no regional water plan is entitled to be so called unless it includes the Litani. We are faced with a decisive refusal to contribute the Litani to the overall water body, which means that this is not a regional water plan, but only a certain arrangement dealing with the Jordan and Yarmuk waters only. We are prepared as before to discuss this possibility, but not to drag it on indefinitely. Spring and summer are near and we do not want these negotiations to drag on beyond them. We would like to know where we stand before the coming spring. We do not see it possible that the renewal of work should be postponed for another summer.
This must be clear. Either/or. Either there exists an agreement or not, but it is our interest to have an agreement soon and to have the situation cleared up.
The main questions dealt with in the talks were the four which Johnston himself posed, one of which he erased immediately, since in his opinion there was complete agreement between him and us regarding it, even if there was no agreement between him and the other party. The question he wanted to put away was that of the irrigated area within which the water would be used. Suppose we have arrived at an agreement regarding the division of the waters; where we are allowed to use them for irrigating land is under our discretion. Here Johnston made it clear in advance that he agrees that we are free to use our quantity of waters everywhere within Israel.
This was the outcome of the negotiations and it was firmly established. He, Johnston, repeated this several times and even reiterated this in a special message he sent us from Cairo 5 or 6 days ago. The Arabs all wanted throughout, and perhaps they still do, to limit rights of water usage to the Jordan River basin. That meant that we would not be allowed to pump these waters outside that area. They have openly advanced all kinds of reasons in supporting this claim, and certainly they have also unspoken reasons for that. This principle immediately changes the balance sheet against us, for proportionally our area within the basin is very limited; while if we are free to use the waters anywhere, we can prove that we have much more area to be irrigated than they have. While owing to topography we can pump water from the Jordan basin up to a point which is not too high and then move the water southward, even to the Negev, the Arabs cannot pump water from the basin up to the height of say, the Hauran or the plateau above the basin. They are limited by Nature.
Thus the Arab claim was erased entirely from the discussion with Johnston as a result of our position. I do not know what will ensue if the Arabs keep insisting on this. I do not know if Johnston would not start to give in. Anyway, he expressed himself most clearly on this point.
There have remained, however three very serious questions, each of which can by itself kill the negotiations. But before I deal with the first and main question, I must point to a hydrological matter which can also involve a political angle. If waters are used to irrigate land within the basin, then most of these waters will then seep back into the basin. Suppose we grant a certain amount of the Banias waters to Syria, and Syria uses them to irrigate land inside the basin – these waters would eventually return to us. The same goes for the Jordan River waters with which we would irrigate land in the Jordan Valley – these would return to the river and the state of Jordan would be able to use them downstream. Not so if we take the waters outside the basin. These would go to the Yarkon River, or even to the Mediterranean. The Arabs are not capable of taking the waters outside the basin. To make this possible they would have to invest enormous amounts of resources, which are not worthwhile economically.
Now, the first question is that of the division of the waters. And to begin with, the establishment of the dividable amount of water, and how to divide it. The second question is whether the Kinneret is going to serve as a multi-national reservoir or not. And the third: would there be a neutral authority or an officer to supervise the plan’s implementation or not; and if there is, what would its or his powers and functions be?
Suppose one of the plan’s elements establishes that the Buteiha [the flat area bordering on the north-eastern shore of the Kinneret] receives the same amount of water as it has from time immemorial. Somewhere there a pipeline should pump water to that area. The Syrians can say: How can we know that the Israelis would not block this pipeline, or if we really receive the amount of water we are entitled to? We want a supervisor to see to that. The Israelis too can demand that. Suppose we receive 40 million m3 from the Yarmuk. There should be a pipeline in which these waters would flow to us, and we would like to have a supervisor who will see to that. A supervisor is thus necessary. He can be appointed by the two parties or by a third party. The question is what would his powers be. He can be someone whose function is technical only, or he can be someone with the powers of judgment, capable of deciding once in favor of one party and in another case in favor of the other party. Thus a question may arise as to the extent of this person’s intervention in the internal affairs of the parties.
Johnston, in opening of the negotiations, brought us three good tidings: 1) He told us that inasmuch as there is a contradiction between the Main Plan and our plan, our plan seems to him as more efficient. According to the Main Plan, a dam should have been built on the Hasbani for the purpose of creating a reservoir there as well as a northern canal conducting the water towards us. In contrast, our plan calls for a dam near the B’not Yaakov Bridge and a canal directing the water from it towards the Bet Netofa Valley, as well as for creating a reservoir there and building a hydroelectric power station on the Kinneret. Johnston informed us that his engineers, after having checked the matter anew, resolved that our plan is more efficient hydrologically and technologically, and consequently they are putting aside their plan and vouching for ours. All this, of course, if there is an agreement at all.
The second good tiding is connected with the serious debate we had with Johnston’s experts regarding the quota of water necessary for irrigating a land unit in the Arab Jordan Valley. We claimed that the quota established by them is highly exaggerated, that it involves a loss of water. I do not know if they accepted our figures, but they lowered theirs quite substantially. At the same time, however, they enlarged the irrigable area in the Arab Jordan Valley.
There is a question here of what is the size of the irrigable area in the Jordan Valley. Suppose there is such-and-such an area – is it possible to irrigate it all? What about areas taken by settlements, roads, etc.? As far as I know, it is accepted in the world to deduct 15% for area not to be irrigated, but Johnston's people deduct only 3%, and this is a very serious bone of contention
We are willing to agree that it is possible to irrigate a certain area in the Arab Jordan Valley, but we are claiming that in addition to the Jordan waters there are there also ground waters. If they assume that the irrigatable land there is greater, we retort that they can use the ground waters too, and thus our share of the water would not be lowered. There is no agreement on this point.
Let me say what was the situation when we parted: Assuming that the general quantity of the Jordan and Yarmuk waters, together with their various tributaries, is 1,140 million m3. Johnston is offering us 430 million m3, that is 38%. The Main Plan offered us 280 million m3 of those rivers.
Had Johnston been here and heard me saying that he had offered us 430 million m3, he would have immediately protested and said: “I offered 490 million m3, not 430" – because he takes into account the waters we shall save by draining Lake Huleh, thus preventing their evaporation, etc. The lowest estimate of this saving is 62 million m3, and Johnston adds this quantity to our account. We, on the other hand, claim these waters are all ours; suppose the Huleh is not drained – is it not all ours still? No, says Johnston; these saved waters are part of the general quantity of water. This means then that he offers us 492 million m3 out of 1,200 million m3. If we say that we are receiving 430 million m3 out of 1,137 million m3, that is 38%. If we say 492 million m3 out of 1,199 million m3, it is 41%.
Now our engineers claim that the general quantity estimated by Johnston is mistaken. It is exaggerated. There is also a big argument regarding the ground waters in the Jordan Valley. Here he claims that we are exaggerating. He says: You are claiming there are chances for such water there, but they do not yet exist. Who knows when they will be discovered? However, regarding the water flowing in the two rivers, he exaggerates and we under-estimate. And a question arises: Is the quantity he is offering us absolute or dependent on the overall quantity? If the estimate of our engineers is right, and they claim the actual usable water is 970 million m3 as opposed to 1,140 million m3, that is if we receive 430 million m3 – this without the Huleh – then our percentage is 44.4%. And with the addition of the Huleh – 492 out of 1,032 million m3 – it is 48%.
When I say that he offers us 430 million m3 without the Huleh, or 492 million m3 with it, a question arises regarding the rest. According to his arithmetic of 1,136 million m3, he remains with 707 million m3 to divide up, and he proposes to divide this as follows: To Lebanon in the area of the Hasbani which flows inside its territory: 35 million m3. To Syria, all in all, 132 million m3. The remainder of 540 million m3 goes the Jordanian Kingdom.
If our arithmetic is right and there are only 970 million m3, and he said that whatever is the overall quantity, Israel would receive 430 million m3, then the Arabs are to receive 160 million m3 less, and it can be assumed that this would be taken from the Jordanians, and this may prompt them to search for underground waters.
This is approximately the situation regarding the water quantity.
I will now elaborate on the use of the Kinneret. It should be clear that in all objective aspects of topography, hydrology and engineering, the use of the Kinneret for storage of the Yarmuk winter water is desirable and necessary, for otherwise these waters would be lost for use. They would flow into the Dead Sea and evaporate there. Had the Kinneret not been in existence, it would be necessary to create it. What does it mean? It means that possibly another lake would serve as the necessary storage, for no well-planned plan is possible without a reservoir. What would happen if there is no storing of the Yarmuk waters in winter? After the Syrian water project is completed, it will take 90 million m3 from this river, and in view of our enhanced use of the Yarmuk water in summer, nothing would be left in the summer unless water is stored in winter, and this means that no development projects in Jordan could take place without storing water in the Kinneret. Two-thirds of the Yarmuk are lost without such storing. This river brings 520 million m3 [annually] into the Jordan, so the storing of these waters is necessary. The question is where and how.
There is no plan which relies only on the Kinneret as a water reservoir. There would be, anyway, an additional reservoir somewhere up the Yarmuk. A dam would be erected on the river and a reservoir would be created. But in order to make the Kinneret unnecessary for the purpose of storing, a huge alternative lake would have to be created, and that would cost a fortune.
The Arabs insist on storing outside the Kinneret as an absolute a priori condition. They define it as “security storing” inside their territory. They say: first of all you must promise us that such a quantity would be stored within our territory, and only then will we consider whether or not what is left over could be stored in the Kinneret.
One of the first plans rejected by the Americans on account of its cost was the creation of a lake which would store 350 million m3. Its cost would have been $50 million. This lake would not prevent a loss of water; it would reduce the loss to 60 million m3 annually. The Americans are now talking about a storage of 120 million m3, which would cost them $17 million; the loss of water in this case would amount to 100 million m3.
I am now dealing with the question of the possibility of storing water outside the Kinneret. The Kinneret is there. Engineering-wise, it is incumbent to use it. [- - -] The maximal quantity it can store is 350 million m3, which means that 60 million m3 would be lost. A plan which the Americans say is reasonable aims at storing 120 million m3 outside the Kinneret, and as a result 75 million m3 would be lost. Our engineers think that this amount can possibly be enlarged to 150 million m3, so that only 75 million m3 are lost. Any plan ignoring the Kinneret as a reservoir involves loss – loss of both water and money which would be needed for establishing a bigger lake, while even after it is created such a quantity would be lost.
Let me say here in all clarity: our rejection of making the Kinneret a reservoir is a weakness in our position. We are claiming that water is one of the most precious elements in our region, and consequently, wasting it is a crime. This claim serves as a basis for our accusation that the Jordanians are wasting water which is necessary for making their economy stable, for settling people on land, for buttressing their future. And at the same time we, in another part of our stance, are taking a position which justifies the wasting of water! There is no doubt that we are confronted here by a waste of both water and money.
Why is it we are still against the use of the Kinneret for storage? This is because of two reasons, both not economic but political. We are saying to the Americans, when they are basing themselves on all kinds of past plans: these plans are a technological abstraction of geo-political circumstances. There are geo-political circumstances which cannot be ignored. We foresee two dangers here, one regarding the Arabs and the other regarding the character of the international body which would be involved in the project.
As to the Arabs, if the Kinneret acquires the status of an international or multi-national reservoir, that is if waters meant for the Jordan Kingdom are stored in the Kinneret, this would serve as an additional basis for demands of border changes and territorial changes in the area. I say an additional basis, because such demands are voiced anyway. Today there are Syrian demands; tomorrow the Jordanians might claim that they need a territorial corridor to the lake. The possible danger posed by an international [supervisory] body is that, if indeed a great quantity of water is stored for a neighboring country in the Kinneret, and if we can supposedly do whatever we want with the Kinneret, then it could be claimed that the interests of that state must be safeguarded by an unceasing intervention [by the supervisor].
Indeed, we have another reason against the use of the Kinneret for benefit of Jordan: the Kinneret is necessary to us a reservoir, and in as much as it is overused because of Jordan's needs, this would be on account of our needs, and then we would have to create other artificial, storing devices and this would cost us money or, in as much as America would finance the project, it would cost her.
The Americans claim that from a technological point of view we cannot avoid admitting the necessity of the Kinneret serving as a reservoir. Johnston said: How can you send me to the Congress for demanding a grant on a basis of a plan that any expert who sees it would say it is a waste of money? On this point we had an exhausting and sometime acerbic argument, as the protocols would prove. Then he made a declaration and said: I understand you are suspecting that the use of the Kinneret as a reservoir would serve as a basis for some American plot of domination. I am prepared, I am fully authorized by the President and in this capacity I am prepared to declare orally before you, as well as in writing, that that there is nothing of the sort, that we have no intention of dominating, that the use of the Kinneret would not serve any such ambition on our part. If that does not satisfy you, I would get a letter from the President to this effect. If a President's letter does not satisfy you, I am herby informing you that the United States' policy is that the use of the Kinneret as a reservoir would not cause, or would not become a basis for demands for territorial changes by any other party, that is the Arabs. If that does not satisfy you, I am prepared to inform you that I will insist that in any signed contract or agreement, with the Arabs too, it would be stated clearly that they cannot by any means rely on the use of the Kinneret as a reservoir to advance any claim for territorial changes.
All this was meant to allay our worries and put this question in a technological or economic context, as a question of water and money. There is here no proposal to give us a guarantee that the Arabs would never claim territorial changes. What he establishes is that in regards of this matter America is standing with us and is prepared to oblige itself in writing while, at the same time, obliging the Arabs that this would not serve as a basis for claims.
I would like to say here something meant for internal knowledge. Our experts see several possibilities aimed at the weakening of the claim for using the Kinneret as a reservoir, or for opposing the waste of water as a result of not using the Kinneret as a reservoir. Suppose they build the Yarmuk reservoir and it would hold not 120 million m3 but 150 million m3. It is possible that then the amount of Yarmuk water brought into the Kinneret would be for our use, not for Jordan's, and we, instead of the 40 million m3 we are taking directly from the Yarmuk, would take them from the Kinneret and let the Jordanians take theirs from the Yarmuk. Possibly, they would not mind if this is done.
Now let us deal with the supervisor. This matter was much discussed in the second round of the talks with Johnston as well as in correspondence with him. In one of my letters I wrote that what we are prepared to accept is an official agreed upon by the two sides, hence, at the moment he stops being agreed upon he is fired. This function is not similar to that of Burns or Bennike, who were sent to us and thus our asking them to get out would have involved our entering into conflict with the UN. The supervisor in question should be agreed upon by the two parties and his function is routine. It is possible to establish an automatic installation which divides the water to each party while the supervisor sees to it that it operates smoothly.
Johnston answered me by saying that his conception of the supervisor's function is "almost precisely the same". His "precisely" was in place, but his "almost" was not so. Later, along the talks, he said: "you know what? I'll buy your ticket" - you define [the function of the supervisor] as you see fit. At a certain stage he proposed that we compose a list of "Water Masters" of international renown. This is an accepted procedure universally wherever a river is used by two states or even by two cities. In our case they can be four such dividing installations: two on the Hasbani and one near Buteiha [and the fourth on the Kinneret]. Johnston was prepared to have the function of the Water Master here identical with that of any other Water Master in the outside world. He once proposed that he would present us with a list of 20 renown people, and if we accept it, the American President , or someone else such as the UN General Secretary would choose one of them, we will choose one and the other party will choose one and this body of three people will appoint the Water Master. This means that there will be a body which will start to direct the activity. And he said to me: you write a definition of this function. This issue has remained open. We said that we would agree on condition that it is mutually agreed upon by the two parties and that the function [of the Water Master] would be technical and routine.
In one of the discussions with Johnston's experts an idea was advanced, one that our experts had already suggested more than once, that we shall not at this stage establish definitely forever the final amounts of water to be divided, but say that the intention behind the final division is that we at once can use all our waters. Why is this important? It is important that in the meantime our activity in this sphere continues, and that it would be carried out in as much as possible not in conflict but in an atmosphere of peace and mutual understanding. Let us establish a certain amount of water for Israel before the final quota is decided upon, so that she can meanwhile renew work in the B’not Yaakov Bridge, as well as a certain amount for Jordan which would enable her to start working ion the refugees' settlement plan. Johnston proposed that in this case some guarantee is necessary for Jordan, and in the course of time, if it turns out that she has more land to be irrigated, and she will need more water, then a revision might take place unless, in the meantime, underground waters are found. The quotas of Lebanon and Syria must be secured. Most of the Syrian quota is from the Yarmuk, for in fact it is sitting on these waters.
This is the situation at present. We have not bound ourselves at al, and in fact Johnston left Israel with no agreement with us on the main three issues, first of all regarding the amount, the Kinneret and the supervisor. We may be facing a rift. He is now in Cairo. We do not know what exactly goes on there. Possibly his people would come over here and tell us.
Johnston's group included him and four others. One of them looked very much looked like a State Department official, and there was another State Department man from its economic department. The third was his main assistant and the fourth an independent engineer.
We should now weigh - matters are not awaiting decision immediately - but the picture would not be complete if we do not asses the results of a possible rift, or the results of an agreement which might include some concession on our part - this is clear - and what would the consequences of no agreement be. We are not deterred by such possibilities, but by no means we cannot ignore them. First of all, the issue may lead to a serious economic war between us and the Arabs. This has been a constantly potential arena for such a war, but the issue of the B’not Yaakov Bridge has turned it to an active one. For the time being it has not assumed the full dimensions of the economic boycott. But it may become an arena of a serious economic war based on inter-Arabs coordination. If this happens, it may certainly lead to the diversion of the Yarmuk; thus we may, in the course of time, lose 40 million m3 which we are now using. We must put down this figure on one side of the balance. True, this does not mean that we cannot find a compensation for this loss.
Moreover, it is possible that they would not build the big reservoir [on the Yarmuk] and as a result would lose water. The point is that we shall not receive those waters. According to the plan, this reservoir's dam should be built in a place called A'dassiya, which in part is located in our demilitarized zone. Theoretically it is an Israeli territory. We have based one of our arguments against the Yarmuk plan on this fact. Johnston, as far as we understand his mode of negotiating has so far, in order to put pressure on Jordan to accept the plan, tells them that a dam must be built there, and consequently this obliges agreement by Israel.
These assumptions are not absolute. It is possible to built a dam not in A'dassiya. Johnston has no interest to point out to such an eventuality now, because he uses it as card. But a dam can be built elsewhere. Moreover, even now we have no control over A'dassiya. We are nor present there, which means there is no need to push us out from there and receive our agreeing. We have no physical domination over this place, the same as we have no domination over El-Hama. We have rights there, and we may erect a military post there in order to dominate the area, but erecting a military post is a highly serious matter; this is certainly clear to all who are aware of the topographical circumstances there. Indeed this is why we could not keep our hold there ]since thw War of Independence.]
Now what about the Banias and Hasbani? There is always the looming danger of the diversion of these rivers. Our experts, except one, are of the opinion that we may ignore the diversion danger regarding the Banias, since it would entail a huge amount of money. The Hasbani case though is different, for here the possibility is more real. Engineering-wise it is not an ideal plan, but still the Hasbanui could be diverted into the Litani, and if this is achieved we would lose 180 million m3.
Now, if we take the Jordan's water that is controlled by us; suppose there is no agreement and we say; you take the Yarmuk and we take the Jordan - and from a view point of the balance this is not a bed possibility - in fact, we are indeed moving along this line - then this does not mean that we would not be faced with Jordanian claims by users of the river down the stream. There were such claims in the past and so far we have overcame them.
What has been accomplished so far? This year we have built two new pumping stations on the Jordan. The Jordanians appealed to the IJMAC. I am not aware of what happened in the days of Bennike; but otherwise we succeeded in causing that the IJMAC chairman decided that he is not authorized to deal with such a matter - the committee is not authorized to deal with water problems, and thus the issue was erased from the committee's agenda. The result was that the Jordanians approached the Syrians and asked them to put the issue before the Security Council. Syria then threatened with doing so, but is seems that the Syrians consulted the Americans and the Americans told them that they have a good chance only if there would be a general agreement. Certainly, the situation would chamge if we do not reach n agreement. I have no idea what would ensue in this case. Therte can be an appeal to the Security Council, or a committee would be appointed or it could be brought to the international court in the Hague. No one knows what could happen.
Lastly, all this means the renewal of our work on the Jordan. Clearly, if no agreement is reached, we shall have to most seriously put this question of renewal on our agenda. But then we shall have to weigh possible consequences. If we mean demonstration only, it is one thing. but if we mean the completion of the canal's digging up and making the water flow - this while allowing the water quota to the Buteiha - then it should be realized that an armed conflict could ensue. Suppose we have the upper hand. Then two questions would arise: what is the meaning of our overcoming an armed opposition?
I have not asked the CoS to prepare a plan for such an eventuality for me. But it stands for reason, that we would not be able to efficiently defend ourselves from the positions held by as at present. This may lead to the advancing of our positions, and this can lead to more serious complications. I have no idea what this would oblige us to do. However, when fighting starts, it has a logic of its own. It is impossible to say - the same as in Korea - that a certain line would not be crossed. The fighting could oblige doing that.
All this should be considered on the background of no agreement between us and the United States. On the contrary, it would happen on the background of our rejecting a settlement proposed by the United States. Clearly then, the prospects are rather foggy. It may be that there would be such unbearable demands as far we are concerned, that be what may, we would have to reject them, but we must be aware of what could be awaiting us.
At the end I would like to say something about the prosaic aspect of the matter, which is the financial one. The promise that this water division project would be financed by an American grant is still holding. When I said that Johnston has brought us several good tidings, this was one of them. He told us that generally at present the trend in America is to move from grants to loans - to limit grants in as much as possible and to loan money to other states. This trend has already been felt by us in regards of the American grant to us. Johnston added that several financiers tried to convince him upon his coming here that the monies given us should be in form of loans, not grants. He responded categorically, that if so, he would resign his mission, because he had already promised that the project money would be given as a grant. He argued that such a big investment as needed for the project cannot be financed by a loan. Anyway, he said he will not budge on his promise of a grant. However, he added that since the days of grants are numbered, it I incumbent to expedite the pace of the project's implementation. He said that while first he envisaged that the implementation would take about seven-eight years, it is now necessary to think in terms of three-four.
I would not say that the financial consideration can be decisive when matters of national and political interests are at stake. However it is one thing when the situation is of no settlement while we are not in conflict [with the grant giver]; it is another in a situation of no settlement while we are acting against the state which is giving the grant. Clearly, in this case the of giving of a grant to a state with which a clash is going on would be questioned.
Obviously, we must weigh also other possibilities, but the unfortunate situation is that other possibilities are less reasonable financial-wise. Possibly, they are not financial-wise at all. One alternative plan would be the pumping of all the water from the Kinneret instead of taking them from the north and from the Yarmuk [this indeed is what ultimately happened.] Another is diverting the Jordan's water from a more northern point and then move them through a tunnel in order to circumvent the demilitarized zone. This plan means much more money and time. I can assume that the Americans are aware of such an alternative and what it would be entailing. They are aware in what measure it does not enhance our negotiating ability. Still, it may well be that we shall have no alternative but to choose it.
Our utilizing of the Jordan's water in whatever way is involved with the problem of the [Jordanians] users down the river's stream. They can appeal to the UN, to the international court of The Hague or to any other place. On the other hand, among the things we can do is the flooding of the Jordan Valley with the Mediterranean waters [by building canal from the Haifa Bay eastwards]. Such a plan exists. In as much as we shall dry up the Jordan by the use of its water, then in order not to lower the water level of the Dead Sea and meanwhile produce hydroelectric power, we can have the Mediterranean water flow to the Dead sea, but by doing this we shall completely salinate the Jordan's Valley.
Let us suppose that we are able to surmount all the last hitches that I have mentioned - the rights of the users down the Jordan's stream, the Syrian's claim and the Hasbany's divertion - then a situation would be created whereby we would b controlling the Jordan and they would control the Yarmuk. If this is what happens and if the Lebanese take 35 million m3 now from the Hasbani, and later 135 million m3 if they divert the Hasbani, and suppose we ignore the problem of the Buteiha, then we would get from the Jordan 410 million m3 plus about 60 million m3 or more from the Hule, and that is 470 million m3 altogether. The figure of 410 million m3 is arrived at if there is no conflict and the Lebanese take 36 million m3 from the Hasbani and the Syrians take 20 million m3 from the Banias ann 20 million m3 for the irrigation of the Buteiha. If the Lebanese divert the whole of the Hasbani, the picture would be different altogether.
However, if we calculate that we would get from the Jordan and the Yarmuk - without the Hule waters - 410 million m3 as against the 430 million m3 proposed by Johnston, then the question is is his proposal serious. He claims it is based on a certain total amount, while our engineers claim it is not realistic. We are thus faced with two numbers: Johnston’s 430 as against our 410 million m3.
[Here ended Sharett’s survey. At this point several members of the committee posed questions, to which he answered as follows:]
I was asked whether there are any chances for direct talks with the Arabs regarding the waters' division. We have constantly endeavored to get together with the Arabs and in a certain stage we proposed that perhaps our engineers meet with theirs in order to compare data. They refused. Generally, their sensitivity is so extreme that any suggestion regarding meeting is not weighed by its merits; it is understood as an Israeli initiative to defile them by direct contact, so this immediately kills the matter.
I will risk myself and say that were it not for the hangings in Egypt, and if the water matter were between us and the Egyptians, perhaps it would have been possible to arrange a meeting of Israeli Engineers with their Egyptian counterparts. However the water issue is not between us and the Egyptians, and there is the hanging affair in the atmosphere..
As to the question regarding our basic position in conducting the negotiations, it is not to extricate ourselves form trouble more or less peacefully or honorably. We are seriously endeavoring towards reaching an agreement and settlement, of course without giving up our vital interests. On the contrary, we want to satisfy our vital needs.
Johnston is now going to make a tour in the Arab capitals and then come back to us. We would then end up with a settlement or with a rift. He may then go to Washington and from there propose a new proposal to both parties. In his last visit here he told me that if he does not reach a mutual understanding with us, there would be no sense in his going back to the Arab States; he would rather return directly to Washington. But as we have seen, he did go to the Arab capitals. His threat was perhaps a means of pressure
As to the question regarding Egypt's function in the negotiations, I would say that first of all, Egypt is interested in receiving American support - not yet a military one, but an economic one, and rather big for the building of the Aswan dam - and hence America thinks it can ask her to reciprocate favorably by functioning as an efficient mediator between her and the Arabs. In addition, Egypt has good water engineers who are better that those of other Arab countries.
My answer to the question which party is more hard-pressed by time, is that our party is. The water level in Israeli wells is going down. Our wells also become salinated. Hence, if Jordan's waters are do not arrive in time, the situation would be serious. Several development plans are dependent on these waters. For instance, the plan of the Lahish area settlement is wholly dependent on Jordan's waters. I know that the Finance Minister Eshkol's major consideration in this matter is the time factor - if the negotiations were conducted by him, he were not e so stubborn, but aim at reaching results.
As to the Arabs, the Jordanians are hard-pressed too, because they are sincerely interested to settle refugees. Moreover, Jordan is constantly dependent of Britain's economic support. If it receives American financial help, it could become less dependent on Britain. Syria is not hard-pressed. She can use the Yarmuk waters anyway and she has no settlement plan for the refugees. Indeed, the Americans see Syrian as the main problematic party in the negotiations.
The British are outwardly siding with the Americans in this venture, but they themselves are not too happy with it. And this not because the project favors the Arabs more than it favors Israel, but because it is much more favorable for the Americans than to Britain. Anyway, they will fight for every drop of water for the Arabs.
The Americans would probably inform us within several days of what the Arabs said. However, I do not assume that they tell the Arabs everything we say, and tell us everything the Arabs say. If we ever know what exactly the Arabs said, it would be much later.
The government would have to sum up its position when Johnston comes back to Israel in about two or three weeks.