Rabin Warns Against Jordan Diversion
The Banias or Hermon River is one of three tributaries feeding the Jordan River. (credit: Boris Carmi, Meitar Collection, National Library of Israel, The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, CC BY 4.0)

July 15, 1965

In a speech to a graduating class of Israel Defense Forces officers, IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin addresses ongoing Arab efforts to divert the sources of the Jordan River. Syria hasn’t given up on its diversion plans despite two successful Israeli strikes on its project, Rabin says, and “a second country” also is continuing with a diversion project.

That second country is Lebanon, which is working on a canal to divert the Hasbani River, a major Jordan tributary, to the Banias River. Syria’s part of the plan is a canal carrying the water of the Banias to the Yarmouk River. The Arab League decided in 1964 to undermine Israel by diverting the sources of the Jordan in response to the completion of Israel’s National Water Carrier, which pumps water from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) across the state for drinking and irrigation.

Under orders from Rabin, the commander of Israel’s Armored Corps, Israel Tal, twice arranged tank bombardments from the Syrian-Israeli border to destroy the earth-moving equipment being used to build the Banias canal. Rabin says Syria hasn’t yet given up on the project but also hasn’t replaced the equipment a second time.

“Those going on with such work will have to bear responsibility for the consequences,” Rabin says in a warning to Lebanon and Syria.