Jerusalem | Hand extended for some, hypocritical gesture for others, the offer of humanitarian aid from Israel to Lebanon after the deadly explosion Tuesday in Beirut is unlikely to succeed as relations between the two countries remain acrimonious.
Immediately after the explosion in the port of the Lebanese capital, which left more than 150 dead and 5,000 wounded, accusing eyes turned to Israel, a neighboring country still technically at war with Lebanon.
According to the Lebanese authorities, it was caused by several tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse.
The Israeli military offers a traditional “no comment”. Then a government source asserts: “Israel has nothing to do with this incident” before the Hebrew state offers humanitarian aid to the country of the Cedars with which it has no diplomatic relations.
“Israel has turned to Lebanon through international security and political contacts to offer humanitarian and medical aid to the Lebanese government,” announces the Israeli government at a time when Beirut hospitals are overwhelmed by the influx of injured.
The offer was not commented on by the Lebanese government which has received aid from many countries including France, a former mandatory power, and Iran, an ally of the Shiite Hezbollah movement, a Lebanese political and military force in open conflict. with Israel.
According to government and diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Israel tries, so far unsuccessfully, to ship medical equipment to Lebanon via the UN, and to send medical personnel to Cyprus, where victims could be treated. of the explosion.
“It is a humanitarian gesture (…) which can bring the two nations together,” said Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence. “The only reason there is no peace is because Iran has taken control of the country through its Hezbollah proxy and is inventing pretexts to keep the conflict going,” he told reporters .
“Exploit the disaster”
Traumatized by the explosion, the Lebanese paid little attention to Israel’s offer, unless they openly criticized it.
“Israel should try to stop exploiting the disaster to wash away its crimes against Lebanon,” notes one Internet user.
In Beirut, we keep bitter memories of the Israeli intervention in Lebanon in 1982 and the Israel-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006, not to mention the thorny issue of the return of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.
And tension remains high between the two countries after Israeli artillery fire at the end of July on a border area after, according to Israel, an attempt to infiltrate “terrorists” from Lebanon.
“Israel has fought terrorism emanating from Lebanon for decades, but we have nothing against the Lebanese people,” assures Israeli businessman Erel Margalit. He said he asked Emmanuel Macron to share the Israeli offer during his visit to Beirut on Thursday, during which the French president spoke of an aid plan for Lebanon.
“Humanity before the conflict”?
In recent months, in the face of the economic and financial crisis in Lebanon, Israeli officials have supported the idea of an international aid plan to save the neighbor but on condition of reforms reducing the influence of Hezbollah.
If the Israeli offer did not receive a favorable echo in Lebanon, the initiative of the mayor of Tel Aviv to illuminate the city hall in the colors of the Lebanese flag did not achieve consensus in Israel, where precisely part of the political class and the population consider Lebanon, and not only Hezbollah, as an enemy.
“Humanity comes before any conflict and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster which struck them”, declared the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai.
One too many gestures, according to part of the Israeli right.
The commentator of the daily “Haaretz”, Gideon Levy, denounced a “abject spectacle of hypocrisy”.
“It is possible and necessary to offer humanitarian aid to Lebanese civilians, but waving the flag of the enemy in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion,” responded the minister responsible for the Jerusalem dossier Rafi Peretz, supported by the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair.
“This is insane. Lebanon is formally an enemy country and it is a crime to fly the enemy flag, ”he commented on social networks.