Israel reportedly sends aid to Indonesia following earthquake, tsunami

Delegation said to prepare to head out in coming days to affected areas, where 1,400 have died and 200,000 are in need

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

Rescue personnel search for survivors at a collapsed home in Balaroa, West Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 3, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28. (AFP/Yusuf Wahil)
Rescue personnel search for survivors at a collapsed home in Balaroa, West Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 3, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28. (AFP/Yusuf Wahil)

Israel has reportedly sent aid to Indonesia following a devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 1,400 people in the pacific island nation.

Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia, sent water purifiers to the disaster-hit areas through the Red Cross, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

The report also said that a delegation of Israeli aid workers was preparing to travel to the region in the coming days.

If so, the move to help five days after the quake would appear to represent a turnaround.

Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren tweeted that sending the aid to Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, showed Israel’s “compassion and humanity and our willingness to share our expertise.”

However, the Foreign Ministry did not confirm that Israel had sent aid to Indonesia. Asked by The Times of Israel several times since Friday’s quake whether Israel was going to send aid to Indonesia, the ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment. Subsequently asked why Israel was not sending aid, they again refused comment.

In the past, Israel has sent large delegations to disaster-stricken areas, and offered to send help to countries with which it has no diplomatic relations.

Teams from the Israeli army provided rescue and medical services after an earthquake in Turkey in 1999, an earthquake in Haiti in 2010, a typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and, most recently, an earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered aid to earthquake victims in Iran and Iraq, two countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations; those offers were rebuffed.

On Friday, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the island Sulawesi, in central Indonesia, and triggered a tsunami. Hundreds of people have died as a consequence of the natural disaster.

Almost 200,000 people are in need of urgent help, the United Nations says, among them tens of thousands of children.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.

Jerusalem and Jakarta do not have formal diplomatic relations but there are unofficial contacts, and Israel has expressed interest in forging ties.

Netanyahu met with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla in New York last week, a rare public meeting of top-level officials from the two countries. Indonesia has historically shied away from open contacts with Israel.

The meeting between Netanyahu and Kalla, which occurred on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, was first reported by Army Radio.

An Indonesian rescue team carries the body of a victim following an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018. (Tatan Syuflana/AP)

On Tuesday, Kalla confirmed that he had met the Israeli leader, though he described the meeting as spontaneous and brief.

“There were 190 heads of state, presidents and vice presidents, prime ministers, etc there. Many agenda came at the same time. You could come face to face with anyone. You could not have avoided it. [Netanyahu] was suddenly just beside me. Should I have turned around?” he said, according to Indonesian media.

Israel in the past has described its disaster relief efforts as both humanitarian driven and a form of public advocacy, showing a side of the country often overlooked by the international community. Some critics have derided the practice as so-called “rubble-washing.”

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