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"Syria has been supplying water since 1986 to residents of the Druze town Majdal Shams, and the Druze of the Golan [Heights] intend to ask [Syria] to start supplying water to additional Druze towns," said MK Ayoub Kara (Likud), the deputy minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee, during a visit to the region yesterday.

Kara, an Israeli Druze, vowed yesterday to work toward reaching an agreement with Syria over the water supply for Golan Heights towns.

Currently, 10% of the water used by Majdal Shams comes from Syria's Ein-al-Toufah spring. The spring is only a few hundred meters north of the village, but is in Syrian territory. Syria has allowed the town to use water from this spring for the past 25 years - for free.

Majdal Shams used the spring before the Six-Day War in 1967, and in 1986 Israel agreed to allow the Druze to rebuild the pipe to the spring.

Israel and Syria share common economic interests that should be developed, Kara added. For instance, Israel exports 10,000 tons of Golan apples to Syria every year, and Kara says this could be increased to 100,000 tons if Syria were to provide more water. The two countries also allow periodic cross-border family and religious visits.

Syria wastes about 200 million cubic meters of water annually, Kara said, adding that an agreement could be reached to send this water to the northern Golan, starting with the Druze towns. Druze residents of the Golan are planning to visit Syria soon, and will ask for more water for the Golan's other three Druze villages.

"The two countries' economic interests will return the sides to the negotiating table, and from economic peace we will also reach true peace," said Kara.