Pakistan accepts Israeli earthquake aid

Aid to be channeled through US or UN as countries lack diplomatic relations.

pak kid quake 298 (photo credit: AP)
pak kid quake 298
(photo credit: AP)
Six days after Israel held out its hand to Pakistan with offers of humanitarian assistance, Islamabad on Friday formally accepted the aid. Eye of the Storm: Local coverage of earthquake >> Foreign Ministry Silvan Shalom's spokesman Ilan Ostfeld confirmed Saturday night that the Pakistanis, through a number of different channels, had accepted the aid, though they stipulated that at this time it not be direct, but rather channeled through the US or the UN. Ostfeld said that the Pakistanis have not ruled out direct aid from Israel at a later date, if the need arises. Shalom characterized the humanitarian relief Saturday night as aid “from the Jewish people and the Israeli people to the Pakistani people.” He said it was part of Jewish values and tradition to give assistance to those in distress. Both Shalom and Ostfeld stressed that this was civilian aid. One senior Israeli diplomatic official, explaining the emphasis on the civilian nature of the help, said that Israel's goal is to “help the Pakistanis, not embarrass them,” and that at this point this is what they were comfortable with. Pakistan's willingness to take Israeli assistance was passed on to Jerusalem both via low-level diplomatic contacts that have continued since Shalom met his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri in Turkey in late August, and via Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress-Council for World Jewry, who spoke to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AP that “We have established the president's relief fund and everyone is free to contribute to it. If Israel was to contribute, that's fine, we would accept it.” The Pakistani newspaper Daily Times quoted Aslam as telling a local television channel that “accepting an indirect donation from Israel did not mean that Pakistan had planned to recognize it and that Pakistan's policy was unambiguous regarding Israel, which was unchangeable.” Despite the recent warming of ties between the two countries, Musharraf, who addressed an American Jewish Congress gathering in New York last month, has indicated that Pakistan has no immediate plans to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. Foreign Ministry officials are scheduled to meet Sunday to determine what to send to Pakistan. Among the items the Pakistanis have requested are tents, medicine, plastic body bags, blankets, mattresses, ready made meals, high-energy snack bars, first aid kits, water purification kits and operating room equipment. Ostfeld said there had been no request for Israel not to put stickers on the aid identifying it as coming from Israel. One diplomatic official, who said not to read too much into the Pakistani acceptance of the aid offer, still said that this was an expression of the strengthening of ties between the two countries. Although Pakistan and Israel have maintained informal contact for years, the contact was brought into the open with the Shalom-Kasuri meeting in Turkey. Shortly after that, Musharraf shook Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hand while they were both attending the UN's General Assembly in September.