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‘Palestinians deserve better’

Sir, – The Palestinian people deserve better (Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, “Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention still stand”, Opinion & Analysis, February 4th).

They deserve leaders who truly care about their people, and not those who consider Palestinian people as pawns to be used in endless political posturing. Under the Oslo Accords, which are the existing applicable legal framework between Israel and the Palestinians, all civic powers and responsibilities – including in the sphere of health – in the West Bank and Gaza are under the mandate of the Palestinians. This includes responsibility for the administration of vaccinations to the Palestinian population.

In the past year, governments around the world have taken decisive measures to protect their populations from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures have had tremendous societal and economic impacts but were taken with the understanding that there was simply no other choice. In Israel, like other places around the world, the welfare and health of citizens is the first priority. Israel devoted huge efforts and resources into finding ways to fight the pandemic. Israeli scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs pioneered innovative ways to deal with various aspects of Covid-19, including the development of an Israeli vaccine (now in trial phases), development of a cure for the disease (also in trials), and more. Securing early vaccination of the entire population became the top priority of the Israeli government, who managed to secure that by swift negotiation of agreements with major suppliers, in particular Pfizer. Israel became a world leader in vaccinating its population while providing real-time data about the effectiveness of the vaccines to the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, in a politically motivated galaxy far far away, Palestinian leaders, and some of their supporters, have been engaged in weaponising the pandemic against Israel and hijacking the Covid agenda for their narrow political goal.

On the one hand, for months during the Covid crisis, the PA (Palestinian Authority) refused hundreds of millions of euro in taxes collected for them by Israel under the existing agreements, just to secure the abhorrent “Pay for Slay” policy of financially incentivising the murder of Israelis. The PA also cut civil coordination with Israel, thus attempting to deprive its own people of medical treatment in Israel during the pandemic, in order to support its political agenda against the Donald Trump peace proposal. In some instances, aid shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) were refused by the PA in order to emphasise its objection to growing relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. On the other hand, in a deeply cynical ploy to absolve themselves of their responsibility for the health of their own people, the PA now demands that Israel takes responsibility for vaccinating the Palestinian population. So vociferous are their demands, it even seems that they want vaccination in Israel to be slowed down, so they can be prioritised.

Despite the at times despicable manoeuvring of the PA, we recognised that the virus knows no borders. For this and for humanitarian reasons, Israel has been assisting the PA in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the pandemic. This assistance was provided, regardless of and beyond any Israeli legal obligation, bearing in mind the PA’s powers and responsibilities in the sphere of health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In this regard, Israel has led many efforts, in cooperation with the PA and the international community, facilitating the delivery of PPE, test kits and various disinfectants, donated by the international community to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition to this, Israel and the UN are working in cooperation to ensure the Gaza Strip overcomes the pandemic outbreak.

In recent times, the PA finally began negotiating the procurement of vaccines with various suppliers as well as with relevant international organisations and is participating in the Covax facility initiative. Israel will of course do whatever is needed to facilitate the supply of such vaccines to the Palestinian Authority. It should be noted that Israel wants to see the vaccination programme for Palestinians rolled out as soon as possible. Israel has authorised the transfer of thousands of vaccines to the PA.

The pandemic is a cause for serious concern for everyone. The Palestinians deserve better care from their leaders. They deserve their health to be prioritised by their leaders, and by those who call themselves friends of the Palestinian people, instead of continuously being used as pawns in cynical political campaigns.

Confronting Covid-19 requires international cooperation in good faith as well as real commitment of leaderships to their peoples. Weaponising this global challenge for political goals should be firmly rejected. – Yours, etc,

OPHIR KARIV,

Ambassador of Israel

to Ireland,

Ballsbridge,

Dublin 4.