TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday offered humanitarian aid to Iran and Iraq following a deadly earthquake, saying he had no issue with the victims, but his offer was promptly rejected.
Netanyahu announced the offer via live broadcast at an annual gathering for North American Jewish leaders, saying that Israel would do everything it could to assist the Red Cross in its relief efforts following Sunday’s magnitude 7.3 quake that claimed the lives of at least 550 people and injured 7,500 more.
“I just saw the pictures of the destruction in Iran and Iraq from this week’s earthquake. And I saw these heartbreaking images of men and women and children buried under the rubble. So I am proud to announce tonight that a few hours ago I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster,” Netanyahu told the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly in Los Angeles.
“I’ve said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran,” he added. “Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred. Israel continues to be a light unto the nations and this is what I am proud of. And all of you can be proud of Israel’s morals, and Israel’s might.”
An official from the Prime Minister’s Office, however, said Netanyahu’s gesture was turned down immediately.
“This shows the true face of the Iranian regime,” the official said.
It wasn’t the first time Tehran rejected Israel’s offer to help. The Iranians shunned Israeli aid in a 2003 earthquake that killed more than 26,000 people. However, when twin quakes killed more than 300 people and injured 3,000 in 2012, Israel said it did not offer assistance because of Iran’s previous response.
“We offered Iran assistance after earthquakes in the past, but they refused. So this time, we didn’t even bother to ask if they’re interested,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Times of Israel at the time. “Their refusal was pretty impolite, but we’re not making a big fuss about it.”
Netanyahu’s offer was praised by Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party.
“Netanyahu’s offer of assistance to those impacted by the earthquake in Iran and Iraq was the right thing to do. The Jewish people are among the leaders in human morality and compassion,” he tweeted in Hebrew.