The Jerusalem Post

ISRAEL BETWEEN WATER AND FIRE

By Uri Dan

Water is also a weapon in the terrorist war against Israel. Hizbullah, a terrorist organization supported by Syria and Iran, lies behind the attempt to steal the water of the Wazzani River, and certainly takes into account that this is liable to end in fire on the northern border.

Hizbullah apparently believes that in either case it will benefit. If Israel does not hinder it from stealing the water, in contravention of international law and the agreement in force between Israel and Lebanon for decades, Israel's water shortage will become even more extreme. If Israel does react with fire in order to prevent the pumping of the Wazzani waters, Hizbullah has set up thousands of rockets and missiles capable of causing damage to Israeli towns, and will attempt to disrupt the American campaign against Iraq.

Even US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, who is not known for his support of Israel, said in an August 28 meeting with Foreign Ministry personnel: The US interprets the tremendous quantities of arms that Iran is sending to Hizbullah, with Syrian approval, as a potential for escalation.

Accordingly, the US intends to work to halt the transfer of these weapons, and specific requests have been made to the countries overflown by the supply flights to stop permitting these flights.

Satterfield added that the US is not threatening Syria but has made it clear that any use made of the arms supplied to Hizbullah will cause escalation that will first and foremost harm Syria itself.

In the light of the progress of the feverish work executed by Hizbullah on the piping project over many kilometers, it seems that Satterfield's messages and warnings have made little impression on Beirut and Damascus, and certainly not on Hizbullah.

Evidently, the Lebanese government, like southern Lebanon, is a hostage of Hizbullah, with the silent agreement, if not the encouragement, of Syria.

This is in fact a complex minefield. At the end of the day, however, Israel must ensure that the Lebanese, including Hizbullah's terrorist regime, do not pump the waters of the Hatzbani.

THIRTY-SEVEN years ago the Arab countries made a joint decision to attempt to divert the sources of the Jordan River. At that time the Syrians organized the heavy equipment and commenced work, protected by their army deployed on the Golan Heights. The pan-Arabic intention was to steal the water in order to make Israel as short of water as possible. In a series of brilliant military operations Israel destroyed the heavy equipment.

Maj.-Gen. Yisrael Tal, then an outstanding commander of the Armored Corps, made sure that the shells from his tanks reached unprecedented ranges and hit the Syrian bulldozers and tanks. This protracted battle for the sources of the water not only thwarted the Arab plan but also led to the Six Day War.

The problem is of course how to prevent the theft of the waters of the Wazzani without causing the outbreak of war in the north, for which the Shi'ite terrorist organization deployed in southern and central Lebanon is striving. There are still people in Israel who remember the lessons of the war for the water in the Sixties and who know very well what resources and options are held by Israel today.

The major difference is the international and geopolitical background to the Israeli-Arab conflict against which this latest affair is taking place.

In the Sixties some Arab countries struggled openly against Israel in order to attempt to steal the water, while the Soviet Union, as part of the Cold War, provided political support and military aid to Egypt and Syria. At that time the Soviets helped to cause the escalation of the water conflict into the 1967 war.

Now a terrorist organization, Hizbullah, is in the front line of the attempt to steal the water, while Iran and Syria hide behind it.

Today the world is run by a single superpower, the United States. Unfortunately for the terrorist organizations, President George W. Bush has identified the great deception of nations that support terrorism and given it a name: the axis of evil. Even if these nations are not always singled out by name, and even if they sometimes successfully hide their fingerprints, they are in America's sights.

In this global war against terrorism declared by the US, Israel will also find the way to prevent the theft of the waters of the Hatzbani becoming a new weapon in Hizbullah's arsenal.

The writer is the Mideast correspondent of The New York Post.

(c) 2002 The Jerusalem Post



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