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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 19, 1999, Vol. 7, No. 55

Bezeq Weighs One Nationwide Dialing Zone

By IsraelWire

The Bezeq Phone Company is weighing the possibility of changing the entire country to one dialing zone in which calls will cost the same locally as they will for one calling from Eilat to the Golan Heights. The calls will be charged by duration. It appears likely that Bezek will ask the Knesset Finance Committee to approve the change in rates at next week's planned session dealing with phone rates.

MDA Refused Blood Donation from Ethiopian Soldier

By IsraelWire

A female soldier of Ethiopian background claims that a Magen David Adom (MDA) blood donation team refused to allow her to donate blood because of her being Ethiopian.

An investigation into the claim by the Ministry of Health concluded that the matter was caused by a chain of misunderstandings. The MDA technician apologized to the soldier, and the MDA bloodmobile was sent to her army base to personally take her blood donation.

The incident took place last week when the MDA bloodmobile arrived at an IDF base as part of a blood drive. The soldier claimed that the team refused to take her blood, in defiance of Health Ministry regulations that blood donations are to be accepted from anyone desiring to donate.

Health Ministry regulations stipulate that blood donations from Ethiopians be frozen for half a year, and that if a second donation is shown free of the AIDS virus, the first donation is considered usable and the second donation is frozen for half a year.

Deputy-director of the Ministry of Health Dr. Boaz Lev stated that anyone wanting to donate blood can do so, without prejudice. In respect for the Ethiopian community, much money was invested for the blood freezing system.

Sharing of Water Leads to Israeli-Jordanian Dispute

By Scott Bobb (VOA-Cairo)

A dispute has erupted between Jordan and Israel over water resources. Under a peace treaty between the two countries, Israel is to give Jordan 55-million cubic meters of water a year. But the Israeli government recently said that because of severe drought in the region, it will cut this allotment by half. The announcement is causing an uproar in Jordan which last year experienced a water shortage so severe that it eventually toppled the prime minister.

The prospect of a summer with severe water rationing is unsettling people in Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. But water experts in both Jordan and Israel say political bickering will not solve the problem. Rather, they say certain pragmatic steps will be necessary in order to minimize shortages that are expected to peak in the coming months.

A professor of hydro-geology at Jordan University, Elias Salameh, says Jordan is already experiencing a 10 percent shortage of water. He says the cuts announced by the Israeli government will double the shortfall.

A professor of environmental sciences at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Hillal Shuval, says the entire region is experiencing the worst drought in decades. He says the Jordan River and Lake Tiberius have received less than half the normal water from rainfall. And as a result, the Israeli government is telling Israeli farmers to expect at least a 25 percent reduction in water for irrigation.

Salameh says if a water crisis is to be avoided in Jordan's urban areas, the government will also have to reduce the water allocated for farming. Shuval of Hebrew University says chronic drought means governments have to change the way they allocate the region's fresh water resources.

The experts note that this policy has negative effects. It antagonizes powerful farming groups. It threatens jobs. And it weakens government efforts to reduce food imports. Analysts say, in fact, certain groups in both countries are aggravating the fears of water shortages in order to advance their interests.

They say the farmers want to keep cheap rainwater for agriculture rather than pay extra for desalinated water from the sea. They say business interests are exaggerating the crisis in order to win lucrative contracts to build desalinization plants. And they say some political groups in Israel are using the water shortage to press the government to retain control over the West Bank and Golan Heights, which are important sources of fresh water to the region.

Nevertheless, Prof. Salameh of Jordan University says chronic drought and rising populations will oblige governments in the

region to accept the fact that in the future irrigated agriculture
can  no  longer be a mainstay of their economies.  "Jordan,  not
only Jordan, but all the Middle East countries affected by water
scarcity, should look into restructuring their economies from depending on irrigated agriculture to other economic branches, like industrialization or maybe tourism or trade, or something else."

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