Israel pledges to reconstruct an entire village in Nepal
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Israel pledges to reconstruct an entire village in Nepal

Efforts to take ‘several months’; providing emergency aid is ‘the most effective kind of diplomacy,’ Liberman says

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Damaged houses are seen from an Indian Army helicopter following an earthquake in the Nepalese area of Gorkha on April 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Sajjad Hussain)
Damaged houses are seen from an Indian Army helicopter following an earthquake in the Nepalese area of Gorkha on April 28, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/Sajjad Hussain)

Israel has committed itself to fully rebuilding a village in Nepal that was destroyed by the earthquake that ravaged the country Saturday, Foreign Minister Liberman announced Thursday.

The efforts will start soon and likely take extend several months after Israel evacuates the field hospital it is currently operating in Kathmandu, he said.

“After consulting with various departments in the Foreign Ministry, we decided to adopt a village in Nepal, to assist with its reconstruction and to do our utmost to help people who have really found themselves in a difficult situation,” Liberman told reporters in the ministry’s situation room.

The work Israel plans to execute on the yet undetermined village will include clearing away the debris, building infrastructure and houses, and making sure residents have access to drinking water, he said.

“We, the professional staff, will start to work after the dust has settled and it’ll be possible to talk with Nepali authorities about the location of the village and the matter of the reconstruction,” the Foreign Ministry’s director-general, Nissim Ben Shitrit, said.

“Adopting” a village in catastrophe-ridden areas in not new for Jerusalem, he said. “We did this in Turkey: The State of Israel built an entire village, including buildings and everything that was needed.”

Both Liberman and Ben Shitrit hailed Israel’s efforts to provide Nepalis with emergency aid as helpful to Israel’s image.

“This is Israel’s other face, which is sometimes forgotten and needs to be strengthened,” Ben Shitrit said.

Indeed, helping others in their time of need is not only a moral imperative but also “the most effective kind of diplomacy,” the foreign minister stated. “In crafting a country’s image, nothing is more effective than providing aid.”

Member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development are expected to spend a certain percentage of their GDPs on foreign aid, and Israel’s spending is far lower than the OECD standard, Liberman acknowledged.

“Like all advanced countries, it’s our duty to help others who suffer from natural disaster. We always came to help, whether it was in Haiti, Japan or Turkey,” he said.

Nepal is a very friendly country, both on the bilateral and multilateral level, he added. “If it is in our power to help, it is our duty to help.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry's Situation room to discuss the rescue efforts sent to Nepal, April 30, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman at the Foreign Ministry’s Situation room to discuss the rescue efforts sent to Nepal, April 30, 2015. (Photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Liberman also expressed pride in the assistance Israel has been providing to its citizens who were in Nepal during the quake. “I looked at all the countries, at the greatest powers in the world, that had more tourists [In Nepal] than Israel — I can say with pride and certainty that no country gave even a quarter of the assistance that Israel gave to its citizens that were stuck in very complicated circumstances. The State of Israel took care of everyone.”

The Foreign Ministry was unwilling to discuss the price tag of Israel’s efforts in Nepal, saying that the operation is ongoing and therefore its cost still unknown.

“When the problem arose and a plane needed to be booked, we didn’t immediately know the cost and who would pick up the tab. I said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Go find a plane and send it on its way.’ The cost doesn’t matter. The last thing we dealt with is costs,” Liberman said.

He also dismissed criticism that said insurance companies, not the state, should be reposnsible for locating and evacuating citizens in distress abroad.

“The State of Israel always talks about solidarity and mutual assistance — Jewish people are responsible for one another,” he said. “Whenever a Jew runs into trouble, it doesn’t matter if we need to go to the other end of the world, we will always go and help.”

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