PM: Haiti aid 'expression of our heritage'

Netanyahu hails "best traditions" of Jewish people, referring to help provided to earthquake-stricken country.

January 17, 2010 22:08
2 minute read.
PM: Haiti aid 'expression of our heritage'

Haiti school collapse 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of the  "best traditions of the Jewish people" when referring to the help Israeli rescue and medical teams were providing Haiti following last Tuesday's devastating earthquake.

Speaking at the the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu called the quake a "horrific tragedy," saying it was Israel's duty to help the Haitian people.

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"What happened there is a large-scale disaster of very great proportions," he said. "The lack of protective measures only deepened the tragedy. I think that it is our obligation, as the State of Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, to mobilize immediately - which we have done."

"As soon as I learned of the dimensions of the disaster, I ordered that a team be dispatched," he continued. "It left with the characteristic speed of the IDF, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry."

He said the defense establishment had sent a team which had begun to work and was already saving lives.

"I think that this is in the best tradition of the Jewish People; this is the true covenant of the State of Israel and the Jewish people," he added, stressing that it followed operations carried out in Kenya and Turkey.

"Despite being a small country, we have responded with a big heart," continued the prime minister. "The fact is, I know, that this was an expression of our Jewish heritage and the Jewish ethic of helping one's fellow man. I hope that the team saves lives and that Haiti succeeds in recovering from this awful tragedy."

Early Sunday, rescuers pulled a dehydrated but otherwise uninjured woman from the ruins of a luxury hotel in the Haitian capital, an event greeted with applause from onlookers witnessing rare good news in a city otherwise filled with corpses, rubble and desperation.

"It's a little miracle," the woman's husband, Reinhard Riedl, said after hearing she was alive in the wreckage. "She's one tough cookie. She is indestructible."

For many, though, the five days since the magnitude-7.0 quake hit have turned into an aching wait for the food, water and medical care slowly making its way from an overwhelmed airport rife with political squabbles. And while aid is reaching the country, growing impatience among the suffering has spawned some violence.

Nobody knows how many died in Tuesday's quake. Haiti's government alone has already recovered 20,000 bodies - not counting those recovered by independent agencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told The Associated Press.

The Pan American Health Organization now says 50,000 to 100,000 people perished in the quake.

Bellerive said 100,000 would "seem to be the minimum."

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