Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Another Interesting Email

The United States has avoided any mention of Israeli participation in the international aid effort for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In a briefing on Sept. 6, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack focused on Arab offers of assistance to the United States.

"We also have received several large, very large, donations from Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates," McCormack said. "We have also seen donations made to the Red Cross from Australia, China, India, Ireland, Japan, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen."

Officials said more than 90 countries and organizations have offered nearly $1 billion in assistance to Katrina victims. They cited helicopters from Canada, Russia and Singapore as well as ready-to-eat meals from Britain, Germany, Italy and Mexico. Bahrain has offered $5 million, a decision that sparked a storm in parliament.
Earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also thanked donors for the Katrina relief effort. Ms. Rice cited offers of assistance from numerous countries, including China and France. She did not mention Israel.

Officials acknowledged that Israel was one of the first countries to offer to send military and civilian teams to New Orleans. But they said the administration, which has highlighted offers of aid from Islamic governments as well as American Arab and Muslim groups, asked Israel to postpone sending aid until a later stage.
The new Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes has been tasked with the presenting an image of a benign America sensitive to the Arab and Muslim world, U.S. officials said.

"She's been an active participant in policy discussions here at the department," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Sept. 1. "The secretary has made very clear that she wants Karen to be deeply involved in policy matters in order to provide an integration with communications and public diplomacy."

In three briefings over the last four days, senior State Department officials made no mention of Israel's offer to help Katrina victims. The last briefing was on Wednesday by State Department executive secretary Harry Thomas, who reported offers from Britain, Germany and Russia.

But on late Wednesday, the State Department issued a report that cited Israeli aid to Katrina victims. The report said Israel has sent tents, first aid kits and baby formula to the United States.

"Russia, China, Spain and Israel sent planes loaded with MREs [meals-ready-to-eat], relief supplies, tents, water purification units, kitchen units and medical supplies," the report said.

The administration's response was said to have alarmed Israeli diplomats, concerned that their country was being marginalized in U.S. foreign policy. Officials said the Bush administration, preoccupied by Katrina, has delayed meetings to discuss Israel's request for $2.2 billion in military and civilian assistance in connection with the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank. The administration has asked Congress for another $51.8 billion for recovery efforts.

"The Secretary [of State Condoleezza Rice] has instructed ambassadors and chiefs of mission to speak to the foreign governments at the highest level," Thomas said, "to go back in to them, thank them for their offers, tell them yes, we want your offer today or [b] we're still evaluating your offer and [c] yes, we may take your offer later as these needs become greater but we want other things."

An Israeli military delegation has postponed its departure to the United States until Thursday. A military statement said the delegation, carrying humanitarian and medical aid from Israel to New Orleans, would also include Foreign Ministry and Health Ministry.

"The delegation will transport aid equipment including 80 tons of food, disposable diapers, beds, blankets, generators and additional equipment which were donated from different governmental institutions, civilian institutions and the IDF," the statement said. "The contents of the shipment were chosen in accordance with the U.S. government."

Officials said the Bush administration delayed accepting Israel's immediate offer to help the hurricane victims. They said the administration was concerned that such a move would deter Arab and Islamic countries from offering assistance.
"At one point, the administration signaled that it would accept Israeli help, but preferred that it be as part of a mission organized by the American Jewish community," an official said. "There appeared to a problem with having the Israeli flag in a foreign rescue mission in the United States."

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