Israel to send 100,000 vaccines abroad but only a portion to Palestinians
Recipient countries to include several that have made diplomatic pledges to Israel
Palestinians pose for a photograph after receiving the coronavirus vaccine from an Israeli medical team at the Qalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP Photo
Israel has decided to provide some 100,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to 20 countries, and although it is also sending some extra supplies to the Palestinians it is resisting international calls to assume responsibility for combating the coronavirus epidemic in the West Bank and Gaza.
The list of vaccine recipient countries has not yet been finalised, but will include several countries that have pledged to move their embassies to Jerusalem and a number of African states which recently renewed diplomatic ties with Israel.
According to media reports Italy, Honduras, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya and Uganda are among the states due to receive the jabs. Each country will receive between 1,000 and 5,000 doses from the supply Israel purchased from Moderna.
Guatemala moved its Israel embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, while Honduras has announced its intention to do likewise. The Czech Republic has said it plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem.
Justifying the vaccine diplomacy, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that in the past month there has been a limited number of vaccine doses unused, so it was decided to make a symbolic gesture to Palestinian medical teams and to several countries that had asked for them.
“In light of the successful vaccination campaign in Israel, the leading country in the world in inoculating the population, Israel has received many requests from countries to assist with the supply of vaccines,” a statement from the prime minister’s office read.
The fact that the decision was taken by Mr Netanyahu without informing ministers or health officials prompted sharp criticism from his coalition partner, defence minister Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party.
“The fact that Netanyahu is trafficking in the vaccines of Israeli citizens, which were paid for with their tax money, without accountability, shows that he thinks he’s running a monarchy, not a state,” he said.
Tamar Zandberg from the left-wing opposition Meretz party, criticised the fact that Israel was helping other countries instead of its Palestinian neighbours.
“While sending vaccines to other countries is a welcomed move, Israel has stopped short of fulfilling its promise to the Palestinians,” she said. “Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are considered one bloc epidemiologically, and Israel, as the controlling force of the Palestinians and their fate, has an obligation to fulfil by sending vaccines to the Palestinian Authority. Giving them vaccines is not an act of goodwill, rather an obligation.”
The decision to send more vaccines to the Palestinians follows criticism that Israel was failing to meet its international obligations, but Israeli officials claimed that under the terms of the Oslo peace accords the Palestinian Authority is responsible for its own health system.