Daily Israel Report

Indirect Talks with Syria to Trade ‘Apples for Water’

Israel and Syria are involved in indirect talks to export Israeli apples in return for Syrian water, according to Likud’s Druze MK Ayoub Kara.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/4/2011, 4:31 PM / Last Update: 1/4/2011, 4:49 PM

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Israel and Syria are involved in indirect talks for a novel proposal to export Israeli apples in return for Syrian water, according to Likud’s Druze Knesset Member Ayoub Kara.

MK Kara, who also is Deputy Minister for Development of the Negev and the Galilee, told Arutz 7, “We have met with [Water Authority Director] Uri Shani and with other directors of the authority. There are 200 million cubic liters of water at the Syrian border. We have spoken with Syria in indirect way and there is a positive direction from Damascus to bring water to the Golan Heights.

“I hope that in the future we will be able to improve the water crisis in Israel.”

Israel has been exporting hundreds of tons of apples to Syria in recent years despite the official freeze in diplomatic and trade ties with Damascus, which is a declared enemy of Israel.

The Golan heights, where Syria  demands sovereignty, and the Upper Galilee include  thousands of acres of orchards, where cold winters and hot summers offer excellent conditions for growing summer apples, as well as cherries, peaches and other summer fruit.

MK Kara admitted that some people are afraid of his proposal despite the "green light" it received at its inception. "I hope we can get over this obstacle,” he added. “Despite the political-security situation, we can take this step. If we can get water, it does not matter whether it comes from the skies or from a pipeline. The main thing is that there should be water."

Both Israel and Syria suffer from a severe water shortage. The level of the Kinneret, Israel’s largest lake, had dropped drastically during the last five years of drought. Barring heavy rains in the second half of the winter, the lake is expected to reach the “black line,” where authorities may have to stop pumping water to prevent irreversible damage to ecology and to stop too many impurities from entering the water system.

“In the past several years, we have exported apples to Syria and we want to continue this trend if it improves political interests,” MK Kara said. He added that he also is working with Jordan on a project to clean up the Yarmouk River.

“We can cheapen the price of water in exchange for apples, and we can create a Garden of Eden in Israel, so who should try to stop this? The agricultural minister said he is prepared to give all the apples we have in exchange for water. The government simply has to stand behind us.”