Hard hit by COVID-19, Lebanon is in dire need of oxygen machines for more than 1,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on respirators. The Israelis are hoping to help. A report on Israel’s effort is here.
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Israeli Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy has ordered his staff to prepare for the possibility of sending oxygen machines to Lebanon, Channel 13 reported Thursday, due to the severe shortage of medical equipment for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
The news came as Eitan Dangot, former chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), suggested that the Jewish state offer the supplies to Lebanon via the United Nations, even if it was not accepted.
Lebanon is in need of oxygen balloons — Israel will be wise and just if it offers through the UN to deliver oxygen balloons as a tribute and for purposes of humanitarian aid,” retired IDF major-general Dangot wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
The proposal is likely to be rejected, but it is a signal to its citizens, to the sane political echelon, to France and the United States that Lebanon can be helped in many ways with reasonable policy changes to build public confidence and to differentiate and isolate [Lebanese terror group] Hezbollah,” he wrote. Dangot has in the past served as Military Secretary to three of Israel’s Defense Ministers: Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak.
Reuters has reported that Syria has agreed to offer emergency oxygen supplies to Lebanon, where hospitals have 1,000 patients on respirators and are about to run out, ministers in both countries said Wednesday. According to the report, Syria will provide over 82 tons of oxygen over three days, health minister Hassan al-Ghobash told the state news agency SANA.
Lebanese hospitals have only a single day’s supply left as bad weather has prevented transport ships from docking, its caretaker health minister, Hamad Hasan, told Syrian state broadcaster Ekhbariya. Hasan did not say whether the patients on respirators were infected with the COVID-19 virus.
The offer itself is a “signal” to those whom retired IDF Major-General Sangot calls “the sane political echelon” in Lebanon – meaning those who do not belong to, or collaborate with, the terror group Hezbollah that is now the most powerful force in Lebanon; it’s a sign of Israeli goodwill. And the Israeli offer, whether Hezbollah allows it to be accepted, which is scarcely conceivable, or forces Beirut to turn it down, should contribute to the isolation and weakening of Hezbollah. Were the offer to be accepted, it would highlight for the Lebanese Israel’s success, and Hezbollah’s embarrassing failure, in dealing with the pandemic. Hezbollah will almost certainly have the offer turned down, denouncing it as a way for the “Zionists” to try to “weaken the resistance.” But the vast majority of Lebanese will be grateful for the offer, will want it to have been accepted, and will feel only anger toward the terror group Hezbollah which would rather have Lebanese suffer and die than accept help from its Zionist enemy. For that acceptance would be a double humiliation: an admission both that Hezbollah is incapable of meeting the medical needs of the Lebanese, and that the Zionists are both able, and willing, to do so. This would place Israel in a favorable light, and that, for Hassan Nasrallah, will never do.
When Hezbollah turns down the Israeli offer, the full cruelty of the group, its indifference to the health and welfare of ordinary Lebanese, will be on display. It’s the same indifference to the welfare of the Lebanese that is on display in its deliberately hiding of its weaponry, including 150,000 missiles and rockets, among Lebanese civilians, thereby endangering their wellbeing in case of a future war. Hezbollah already dragged Lebanon into one conflict with Israel in 2006, and it may do so again.
Hezbollah’s rejection of Israel’s offer will also remind the Lebanese that the same indifference to their wellbeing that caused Hezbollah for years to store haphazardly 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrates in Hangar 12 at the Port of Beirut, not caring enough to place the highly explosive material far from populated areas, or to divide it into a dozen smaller amounts so as to minimize the risk of a giant explosion. Hezbollah thus played fast and loose with the safety of ordinary Lebanese for years, and that explosion did in fact occur on August 4, resulting in 200 dead, 6,500 wounded, 300,000 homeless, and $15 billion in damages. This disaster, and Hezbollah’s role in causing it, has been seared into the collective memory of the Lebanese.
Hezbollah is now at the nadir of its popularity in Lebanon. When Lebanese have protested non-violently against the mismanagement and corruption of the government, and the permanent cadre of political figures who play musical chairs with cabinet posts but never leave the upper echelon of government, it is Hezbollah that has violently suppressed them. The Lebanese thus, quite correctly, hold Hezbollah responsible for keeping in power that small group of grasping politicians, led by the terror group’s most important non-Shia collaborator, the Maronite President Michel Aoun, who are willing to do Hezbollah’s bidding.
When Hezbollah has the government turn down Israel’s offer of oxygen machines, with Hasan Nasrallah insisting that the offer is a “Zionist trick,” that may be too much for ordinary Lebanese to bear. One can imagine the chants and the signs of demonstrators, people at the end of their tether: “Oxygen has no nationality” and “Let us breathe!”
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