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Water diversion newest flashpoint in Middle East

Posted By F. Michael Maloof On 07/21/2012 @ 8:14 pm In Front Page,World | No Comments

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BEIRUT, Lebanon – Israel has expressed concern over a Lebanese plan to divert some water from the Hasbani River in south Lebanon. The river also flows into Israel, even though it represents a small percentage allotted under the so-called Johnson Plan which addressed previous water diversion disputes between both countries and Jordan, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Based on Israeli reactions to previous water diversions in Lebanon, this latest episode could ignite an already-tense border climate that has included past threats. One Israeli official warned that the project has become a “strategic problem.”

The Hasbani River is one of three tributaries of the River Jordan which flows into the Sea of Galilee, said to be Israel’s largest reserve of fresh water.

Some observers suggest that Israel is overreacting to the latest Lebanese intention to divert some of the water for a tourism project and to irrigate some farm lands in Lebanon.

In the past, Israel has complained of other water diversions, and the issue brought it to the brink of a shooting war with Lebanon.

This was the case in 2001 and again in 2002 when water was diverted in Lebanon to provide drinking water to villages in the south that would not have water otherwise. In both cases, Israel’s reaction was immediate, with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declaring the projects a “causus belli,” or case for war.

Over the latest project, the Israelis are concerned that the tourist site could be used as a cover to launch attacks against Israel, since it is in south Lebanon near the United Nations-mandated Blue Line border with Israel.

Regional observers say that the “overstated threats” from Israel over what is perceived to be a minor water pumping project for tourism and farming suggest just how tense events have become in the area.

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