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Shimon Peres, in his role as foreign minister in 1992, torpedoed the construction of a desalination plant that would have supplied water to Israel and the Palestinians, former water commissioner Dan Zaslavsky revealed recently.

Zaslavsky, who now serves as chair of the Science Ministry's National Council for Research and Development, made the claim in a publication by the Water Commission.

Zaslavsky said that in his role as water commissioner in 1992, he began to promote a giant project to build a desalination plant along the Israel-Gaza border that would process 80 million cubic meters of sea water annually. Palestinians in Gaza were already suffering from water shortages at the time.

The project garnered the support of then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and then defense minister Moshe Arens. Shamir told Zaslavsky at the time that he considered it important to supply water equally to Jews and Arabs, as both were human beings, the former commissioner said.

However, the Rabin government replaced the Shamir government in 1992 just as Zaslavsky was seeking developers to submit bids to carry out the project. He therefore held two lengthy meetings with the new foreign minister, Shimon Peres, to present his policy on the issue.

"I stressed to him that I was about to establish a desalination plant on the border of the Gaza Strip," Zaslavsky related. "Peres burst out in response that he opposed it, because it did not concern us, and we did not need to worry about the Arabs, as they would look after themselves." He claims that the project was consequently canceled.

Zaslavsky also revealed in the interview that during his tenure, from 1991 to 1993, he discovered that the emergency water system was only designated to supply water to Jews. "The Arabs have no supply in times of emergency, and this is one of the topics I dedicated myself to dealing with," he said.

Peres's office said that he does not recall such a meeting with Zaslavsky, and in any event, he cannot comment on the things he allegedly said in that meeting.

Arens told TheMarker that during his tenure as defense minister, he supported every initiative to improve the water supply situation in the territories in general, and in Gaza in particular.
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