Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs ( McGhee )1


Subject: Visit of Jordan Minister, Dr. Yusuf Haikal

Participants: Dr. Yusuf Haikal, Minister of Jordan
Mr. McGheeNEA
Mr. WaldoNE

Dr. Haikal called on me to discuss recent actions by the Israel Government to restrict the flow of the Jordan. He said that the Israelis had been shutting off the water at the southern end of Lake Tiberias, resulting in a great increase in salinity in the lower regions of the River and jeopardizing the economic life of the entire valley. His Government had cabled to the Secretary General of the UN requesting that the UN take action to halt Israel’s interference with the flow of the River.

Dr. Haikal said that he had also discussed the question in New York with appropriate officials of the UN but had not received a very satisfactory reply to his questions. The UN Secretariat had told Dr. Haikal that it did not think the SC or UN could take any action [Page 731] on this question without a full investigation and that, therefore, the PCC or General Riley would be required to investigate. Dr. Haikal said that he had reported this to his government, suggesting that Riley might be asked to investigate and that his government had replied that the problem was outside the competence of General Riley.

I told the Minister that this situation pointed up the urgency of some form of agreement between Israel and Jordan, at least on this particular question. We had been faced with a somewhat similar problem in the use of the water of the Colorado River. California had wished to use the entire flow of that river before it entered Mexico. Without looking into the legal aspect involved, we had negotiated a treaty with Mexico which had satisfactorily settled the disposition of the Colorado River water.2 I suggested that the Jordan government might look into this treaty, and I gave the Minister a copy of it.

The Minister said that, while we had worked out the problem with Mexico, he wanted to point out that, after all, the US had friendly relations with Mexico, and Jordan did not have friendly relations with Israel. There was no point of contact between the two governments. Dr. Haikal said that the UN had brought Israel into being and was responsible for all the problems which stemmed from Israel’s creation and, therefore, the UN should be called upon to settle the question of water rights.

I told the Jordan Minister that it seemed to me that there were several points of possible contact between Israel and Jordan which might be usefully employed in handling this problem. In the first place, there was a Special Committee under the General Armistice Agreement whose terms of reference might permit the consideration of this problem. In addition to that, there was of course the PCC, which was specifically charged with negotiating political arrangements between Israel and Jordan. The Minister said that as far as the PCC was concerned they had been unsuccessful in solving any political questions over the last three years and he was afraid they would have no greater success with this one. The water of the Jordan was vital to the life of his country, and he hoped that some immediate step could be taken to instruct the Israelis to desist from cutting off the flow of the River. I said that it seemed to me the matter could be taken up with the PCC on an urgent basis; that we would be glad to study the matter and inform the Minister in a few days as to a possible means of solving this question.

  1. Memorandum drafted by Mr. Waldo.
  2. Apparent reference to the treaty relating to the utilization of waters of the Colorado and Rio Grande (with Supplementary Protocol signed November 14, 1944), signed at Washington, February 3, 1944, and entered into force November 8, 1945. For text, see TS 994 or 59 Stat. (pt. 2) 1219.