Helping the Palestinian Authority vaccinate its people against the novel coronavirus is the right thing to do, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu referred to a shipment of thousands of doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the PA, in a press conference on Israel’s latest COVID-19 response policies.
“Unlike what some say, we are not an island. We are not New Zealand or Australia. We are connected to the Palestinians,” he said, pointing out that large numbers of Palestinians work in Israel each day.
“We have a supreme interest in ensuring that there will not be a high level of morbidity [among Palestinians] and that things will be under control,” he said. “I think it’s the right step.”
The doses sent to the PA are meant for medical staff, who will be vaccinated first like in Israel.
Netanyahu said that after Israelis are vaccinated, the government will send doses of the vaccine to other countries that have made requests, as well.
Israel transferred 2,000 doses to the Palestinian Authority on Monday, out of 5,000 expected to be sent in the coming days, and 20,000 in the ensuing weeks.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced on Monday that the PA expects to receive 50,000 vaccinations from a number of different sources, mainly the COVAX facility coordinated by the World Health Organization, and that the vaccination campaign in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would begin in the middle of February, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
Shtayyeh did not mention the doses coming from Israel, though he spoke after their transfer.
Palestinian officials have in the past two weeks made contradictory statements as to whether the PA had asked Israel for vaccines, with its Foreign Ministry saying in one statement that Israel, as an “occupying power,” was obliged to provide vaccines to the Palestinians, while other officials stated that it had not requested vaccines from Israel and that the PA had even rejected vaccines that were offered to them by Israeli NGOs.
Israel has been repeatedly condemned for allegedly not providing coronavirus aid and vaccinations to Palestinians by politicians and activists citing international law that requires an occupying power to arrange for the healthcare of the occupied people.
However, the Oslo II Accords arranged for the PA to take responsibility for health care in the areas under its control.
Oslo II also states that “Israel and the Palestinian side will exchange information about plagues and contagious diseases, will cooperate in fighting them and develop systems to transfer medical files and documents.”
In the early months of the pandemic, Israel provided aid to the Palestinians and facilitated the transfer of contributions from abroad.Then-UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace process Nickolay Mladenov praised the “excellent cooperation” between Israel and the PA on fighting coronavirus on numerous occasions. Later in 2020, the PA stopped all cooperation with Israel for six months.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.