Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Israel sends vaccine ‘gifts’ to friendly nations

But the right-wing premier, who describes Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s 'undivided capital', cheers nations that conduct diplomacy with Israel from the disputed city.

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Israel said Tuesday it was sending a “limited quantity” of unused coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians and several countries, including two that have announced plans to boost their diplomatic presence in Jerusalem.

Honduras, which said last year that it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, is on the list of recipients, according to Israeli media reports confirmed to AFP by a source familiar with the arrangement.

The Czech Republic, which plans to open a diplomatic office in Jerusalem next month, said that it had received 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the Jewish state.

“It’s a gift from Israel to the Czech Republic,” Tunde Bartha, who heads the office of billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, told AFP.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that Israel had “received many requests from countries for assistance in supplying vaccines”.

Israel did not foresee offering “significant” help until its own inoculation drive had been completed, the statement said.

“Nevertheless, over the past month, a limited quantity of unused vaccines was accumulated; therefore, it has been decided to assist Palestinian Authority medical teams and several of the countries that contacted Israel with a symbolic quantity of vaccines,” the statement added.

Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment on which countries were included in the vaccine-sharing deal or the number of vaccine doses to be sent.

But the right-wing premier, who describes Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s “undivided capital”, cheers nations that conduct diplomacy with Israel from the disputed city.

Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, pending a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

‘Running a kingdom’

Rights groups and the United Nations (UN) have said that Israel has an obligation under international law to vaccinate all Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and those in Gaza, where Israel maintains a tight blockade on the enclave, controlled by Hamas Islamists.

Israel has already sent several thousand vaccine doses to the occupied West Bank to inoculate Palestinian Authority medical workers.

It did not disclose how many additional doses would be sent.

The Jewish state has administered the two recommended shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to more than three million people, roughly a third of its population.

While many countries, including wealthy ones, are struggling with vaccine supply, Israel has avoided shortages since launching inoculations in December.

That is in part thanks to a deal with Pfizer, which agreed to keep Israel stocked in exchange for data on the jab’s impact.

Defence minister and Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz condemned the premier for exporting vaccines paid for by Israeli taxpayers without consultation.

“He thinks he is running a kingdom, not a state,” Gantz charged.

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