The day after the World Bank recommended sharing its vaccines with Palestine to ensure the effectiveness of the immunization campaign against covid-19, Israel announced on Tuesday the delivery of a "symbolic number of doses" to the Palestinian Authority to protect your healthcare workers. With the same unused vials accumulated in reserves for a month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken the opportunity to give a part of the surplus to "several countries" not identified in an official statement.
Vaccine diplomacy is making its way in the Middle East. Israel – which has already immunized with at least one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech to about half of its 9.2 million inhabitants and a third of them with the second – had sent at least 2,000 vaccines from the laboratory at the beginning of the month Modern for the Palestinian health services, to which Russia has in turn given 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine it manufactures. The Palestine Liberation Organization demanded that Israel, as an occupying power since 1967, take over the vaccination of its nearly five million inhabitants in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu's government alleges that, as of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority has exclusive jurisdiction over its health system.
A World Bank report released on Monday warned, however, that the financing of the Palestinian vaccination program registers a deficit of 30 million dollars (24.7 million euros), despite the fact that 20% of immunizations are covered by the Covax program of international cooperation. "To ensure an effective campaign, the Israeli authorities must coordinate with the Palestinians the financing, purchase and distribution of vaccines against covid-19," says the World Bank. The Palestinian economy has suffered a drop in Gross Domestic Product of 11.5% in 2020.
“In view of the success of the vaccination campaign, Israel has received requests for help from various countries. But we have acquired vaccines only for our population. We do not manufacture them ”, states the statement from the Prime Minister's Cabinet. "We are not in a position to offer significant assistance until we have completed our own campaign." According to Israeli press reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Monday about the shipment of vaccines to Gaza and the West Bank.
The United Arab Emirates, which also does not make vaccines, sent 20,000 doses of Sputnik V to the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The Palestinian leader Mohamed Dahlan, exiled in the Emirates after confronting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, seems to have influenced this operation in favor of Gaza, where he has his political stronghold. Last week, Israel held a consignment of 2,000 doses of Sputnik V destined for the Palestinian Mediterranean enclave on the West Bank border for two days. Shortly afterwards, the Israeli government allegedly promised to pay for the delivery of 500,000 doses of the Russian vaccine to Syria, within the prisoner exchange agreement to free a young Israeli detained after crossing the border.
Amid the unexpected traffic of roads between countries that are still technically at war, Israel is taking steps to vaccinate some of the 120,000 Palestinians who come to work from the West Bank every day. The experts of the Ministry of Health consider that their presence represents a risk of infection focus. The Red Star of David, equivalent to the Red Cross, has opened an immunization center at the Qalandia border crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The Construction Employers Association, which employs 65,000 Palestinians along with 250,000 Israelis, has called on the health authorities to vaccinate their Palestinian workers. "They have been with us in the chops for many years," says the letter they have sent, "and we believe it is fair and moral to take this step."
The Hebrew press assures that the beneficiary countries of the Israeli vaccine surplus are Honduras, Guatemala and the Czech Republic, close allies that have pledged in the past to open diplomatic offices in Jerusalem. Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek has confirmed that several thousand doses of Moderna's vaccine have already been received in his country, Reuters reports. Israel considers the Holy City as its exclusive capital, although the Palestinians hope that the eastern part of the city, which has been militarily occupied for nearly 54 years, will host the institutions of their future state. Of the 164 countries that maintain relations with Israel, 89 have an embassy, of which 87 are located in Tel Aviv. The United States and Guatemala are the only ones that have transferred their legations to Jerusalem.