The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee`s Subcommittee for Foreign Policy, headed by MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), discussed on Wednesday the assistance Israel provides to developing countries around the world, with a focus on aid that is provided through the Agency for International Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mashav) and various volunteer organizations.

MASHAV Director Gil Haskel mentioned that most of the world`s population lives on less than two dollars a day, without access to clean water, and said this ”expands our ability to invest, help and influence these countries.” To date, he noted, Mashav has operated in 130 countries and has trained a quarter of a million instructors in various fields. ”These instructors have become ambassadors of Israel in a way that improves Israel`s status in the world. The assistance opens the door also to countries Israel does not maintain formal relations with, it exposes the beautiful face of the State of Israel and has a greater effect than any Hasbara (public diplomacy) activity,” Haskel told the subcommittee.

MK Oren: Israel must increase aid to developing countries, ”not only in times of crisis”

The Mashav director complained that the department`s budget is 75% smaller compared with the funds that were invested in this field 20 years ago (NIS 31 million in the past compared with NIS 9 million today). ”At international forums, I prefer not to disclose the level of investment,” he said.

Haskel added that some of the prime minister`s promises to assist developing countries could not be fulfilled due to budgetary constraints. One such promise was recently made to the president of Honduras, he noted.

MK Oren said Israel must increase its assistance to developing countries, ”not only in times of emergency, but on a regular basis,” and ”use Israel`s vast knowledge in high-tech, medicine and agriculture fields for the good of humanity.”

”International aid and development is a tool for strengthening Israel`s foreign relations, because these activities can have a positive influence on the State of Israel`s image in general, and particularly on the fight against the boycott,” he stated.