Foreign Ministry official: Israel needs agency to assist other countries hit by disaster

Rendering aid in times of crisis is one of the best ways for Israel to improve its image, says Foreign Ministry director-general.

Soldier tends to Syrian child at IDF field hospital (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Soldier tends to Syrian child at IDF field hospital
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Israel should consider establishing a special agency to assist other countries in times of disaster and emergency, Foreign Ministry director-general Nissim Ben-Sheetrit said on Tuesday.
Ben-Sheetrit, who was Israel’s ambassador to Japan during the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 that led to a tsunami and a massive nuclear reactor meltdown at Fukushima, said that the humanitarian aid that Israel renders in times of crisis could be used to improve the country’s image in the world.
Immediately after the disaster in Japan, Israel dispatched a 50-person medical delegation, and some 18 tons of aid, to the country to assist the afflicted regions. The government has delivered similar support to other countries dealing with natural disasters – most recently, the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in November.
Ben-Sheetrit, speaking at a conference held at the University of Haifa marking the third year anniversary of the disaster in Japan, stressed that the principle motivation for sending this aid was simply the desire to help, not to improve Israel’s image. Beyond Israel’s border and the country that receives the assistance, he said, there is little awareness of the Israeli aid, and therefore it does not impact on Israel’s image around the world.
If the aid were accompanied by spokespeople and a public relations team, he said, it would be possible to leverage the positive image created for Israel inside the afflicted country to the rest of the world.
Ben-Sheetrit said that the positive impact created by the delegation that spent two weeks in Japan continues to reverberate to this day. The hospital that Israel established in the region continues to function, and is still using IDF medical equipment. He also said that Israeli industry helped rebuild the devastated region by establishing factories that are providing employment, and that Israel provided assistance to farmers enabling them to grow produce in a way that is detached from soil contaminated by the nuclear meltdown.
Japan’s Ambassador Hideo Sato said that Israel’s assistance is continuing, and that Israeli delegations are helping treat children who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the disaster.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his speech last week to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, underlined Israel’s humanitarian aid, saying that Israeli medics and rescuers “rush to the victims of natural disasters across the world – to Haiti, to Turkey, to Japan, the Philippines, to many other stricken lands.”
He contrasted that “Israeli export” with what Iran sends around the world. “Did you ever hear about Iran sending a humanitarian delegation overseas?” he asked. “No? You missed that memo? You know why? You know why you haven’t heard anything about that? Because the only thing that Iran sends abroad are rockets, terrorists and missiles to murder, maim and menace the innocent.”
The next day, Israel intercepted the Klos C in the Red Sea smuggling Iranian- and Syrian- supplied weapons and rockets to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.