Pakistan snubs Israeli aid offers

Despite warming of ties and pleas for help, Israel's offer goes unanswered.

pakistan earthquake298AP (photo credit: )
pakistan earthquake298AP
(photo credit: )
Despite a very public warming of Israeli-Pakistani ties over the last two months, things have still not heated up enough for Islamabad to publicly accept humanitarian aid from the Jewish state. Read earthquake coverage direct from Indian and Pakistani news media. Even though Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf called for international assistance to help his country deal with the massive earthquake that hit his country Saturday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told the cabinet Sunday that Israel's offer of humanitarian aid to both Pakistan and India has as of yet gone unanswered. A spokesman for the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv said that Pakistan was hit far worse than India by the trembler, and that India has not asked for aid. Indeed, India has offered aid to Pakistan, its long-time enemy. Foreign Minister spokesman Mark Regev said that although no formal channels of communication exist with Pakistan, Israel has let Islamabad know of its willingness to help. He did not provide any details about what type of aid was offered. Israel has in the past used humanitarian aid to strengthen ties with some countries, and try to break the ice with others. Israel and Pakistan's foreign ministers held the first public meeting between officials of the two states in August, and Musharaf shook hands with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the United Nations in September. Large-scale Israeli assistance following a massive earthquake in 1999 in northwestern Turkey that killed over 15,000 people, and following a huge earthquake in western India in 2001 that killed some 20,000 people, helped strengthen ties between Israel and those two countries. Following the tsunami in southern Asia in late 2004, Israel airlifted to Indonesia, with which it does not have diplomatic ties, some 75 tons of aid for Indonesian victims. Shalom met with his Indonesian counterpart last month at the UN. Not every country, however, has proven open to these gestures. For instance, Iran refused assistance from Israel following a catastrophic earthquake there in 2003 that killed more than 30,000 people. At the time, a spokesman for Iran's Interior Minister, Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations, with the exception of the Zionist regime." Meanwhile, IsraAid - a coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish NGOs involved in relief work, has received funding from private donors to send aid to India, where more than 600 people are believed to have been killed by the earthquake. Shachar Zahavi, the founder of the group, said that IsraAid is currently in contact with international humanitarian organizations to assess what is being done by other organizations and determine what more is needed. Zahavi said it generally takes some two to three days to determine the relief needs.