Home inContext Israel Fire Warms Relations in the Middle East

Israel Fire Warms Relations in the Middle East

Samara Greenberg

Though deadly and devastating, Israel’s 82-hour Carmel Forest fire has created a new reason for cooperation between Israel and her neighbors. Following the international assistance given to Israel to help extinguish the fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday with the leaders of Greece, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, suggesting the establishment of a regional fire fighting force that would provide assistance where needed.

Overall, 23 countries helped Israel fight the fire, including 21 Palestinian firefighters on four trucks from the West Bank. According to Bethlehem Civil Defense Chief Ibrahim Ayish, “We were received respectfully. After all, we’re dealing with a humanitarian issue which knows no borders.” When asked by Israel Radio how they felt about fighting a fire in Israel, the Palestinians said they believed Israel would do the same for them. “It’s, like, peace,” one Palestinian firefighter told Channel 10.

In addition, despite its own set of tensions with Israel over the last year, Turkey sent two firefighting planes to help control the blaze, a friendly gesture that has since sparked diplomatic talks between the two countries whose relationship has seen better days. From the region, Jordan and Egypt also sent assistance.

As Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren notes, “among the lessons of this tragedy is that friendship can blossom even in the most scorching conditions. The miracle of this Hanukkah is not that a fire lasted so long but rather that it was extinguished by enlightened cooperation.”