Israel’s decision to build a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Se (decision 11/4)
47. At the 8th meeting of the session, on 23 May, the Council considered a draft decision on this subject submitted by the Arab, African and Asian Groups (UNEP/GC.ll/L.10).
48. The representative of the United States of America called for a vote on the draft decision, saying that her Government opposed the draft decision, as it had opposed General Assembly resolution 37/122, because its conclusions were premature and its formulation unbalanced. The reports of both the Executive Director and the Secretary-General showed that the project was still at the feasibility stage, and described only possible effects of the canal.
The issue was not one, which should have come before the Council, but should be decided in discussions between the two States involved. The regrettable precedent of UNEP involvement in a bilateral issue undercut the image of UNEP as a technical body.
49. The representative of Israel emphasized that the negative impacts of the proposed project would be both manageable and moderate, because concern for the environment had been a guiding principle throughout the design of the project. The proposed project, which was still at the stage of
feasibility studies, would not be approved until further studies had been completed and the matter investigated in depth. The environmental consequences would continue to receive priority consideration in every stage of the process. In adherence to the principles of conduct drawn up by UNEP for the
guidance of States in the conservation and harmonious use of shared natural resources, Israel called upon its neighbour Jordan to co-operate in the development of their shared resource, and reiterated its willingness to co-operate with Jordan in the planning, construction and use of the canal.
50. The representative of China said that the canal project would brutally trample upon the rights and interests of the Palestinian people, infringe Jordan sovereignty and cause serious damage to the people and ecosystem of occupied Arab territory.
51. The representative of Jordan said that the canal project was destructive and harmful to the economy and rights and interests of Jordan, threatening the people of both Jordan and Palestine. The possibility that nuclear reactors might be constructed along the canal was a particular cause for concern, since Israel had not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and had refused to allow IAEA personnel to inspect its nuclear installations.
52. The representative of the USSR, speaking on behalf of the Eastern European Group, said that the project was not only illegal and violated the legitimate rights of the people of Palestine and Jordan, but would also cause irreparable ecological and economic damage. The draft decision was also
directed against Israel’s attempts to tighten its hold on occupied Arab territory. The parallels of the Panama and Suez Canals should not be forgotten.
53. The representative of Iraq pointed out that the Gaza Strip was in neither of the two States between which bilateral discussions had been recommended.
54. The President then put the draft decision to the vote - At the request of the representative of Oman, the vote was taken by roll call. The draft decision was adopted by 45 votes to 1, with 4 abstentions. Voting was as follows.-
In favour: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Federal Republic of, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya ' Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Yugoslavia.
Against: United States of America.
Abstaining: Jamaica, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Switzerland.
55. The representative of the Federal Republic of Germany, speaking on behalf of the countries of the European Communities which were members of the Governing Council, said that, in accordance with views set out at the thirty-seventh session of the General Assembly, the delegations of those countries had voted in favour of the draft decision.
56. The representative of Canada said that his Government opposed the project because it lacked the prior agreement of all concerned and was contrary to accepted practice and international law.
57. The representatives of Jamaica, Japan and Papua New Guinea said that they had abstained in the vote on the draft decision as they had received no instructions from their Governments. The representative of Japan subsequently informed the ,secretariat that, had instructions
been received in time, he would have voted in favour of the draft decision. The secretariat was also informed by the representatives of Colombia and the Philippines that, had they been present during the vote, they would have voted in favour of the draft decision.