Israel planning to 'use Covid-19 vaccines to buy normalisation'

Israel planning to 'use Covid-19 vaccines to buy normalisation'
The Israeli government could use the Covid-19 vaccine to establish relations with an undisclosed nation, an official said.
3 min read
22 February, 2021
Mauritania is among the countries rumoured to be considering normalising ties with Israel [Getty]
Israel may donate precious Covid-19 vaccine doses to an undisclosed Arab country in return for normalisation, the country's Army Radio reported on Sunday.

The vaccines would be given to Arab states after its own inoculation efforts have concluded, a government official told the Army Radio, despite providing no assistance to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

One of those countries is a state with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, the official said, rumoured to be Mauritania.

Israel would offer that country Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for the normalisation of ties, the official explained without naming the nation.

Several Arab- and Muslim-majority nations are rumoured to be considering establishing relations with Israel following a series of US-brokered deals in recent months.

Among the nations thought to be mulling the move are Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Mauritania, along with the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia.

Of those countries, Mauritania is the only yet to acquire doses of a Covid-19 vaccine but is part of the international COVAX scheme that aims to fund the supply of vaccine doses to lower-income nations.
Read more: Trump's 'time ran out' for Mauritania, Indonesia normalisation deals

The revelation by an unnamed government official follows reports that Israel offered coronavirus vaccine doses to Syria in exchange for the release of an imprisoned Israeli woman.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied those reports.

The UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan all agreed to normalise ties with Israel last year.

Those deals included several key concessions by the Trump administration, including the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara region and the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi.

Israel is now working with a "special friend" - perhaps the UAE - to distribute vaccine doses to other countries, the government official told Army Radio.

The official's comments come despite Israel's continued refusal to supply Covid-19 vaccine doses to authories in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

Palestinian inoculative drive 'blocked by Israel'

The Israeli government denies it is responsible for providing vaccines to the occupied Palestinians but human rights groups say the Oslo Accords necessitate Israeli aid in public health emergencies such as a pandemic.

Israel has agreed to send 5,000 vaccine doses to the West Bank in order to immunise Palestinian front-line workers.

Around 20,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in a shipment reportedly arranged by Mohammed Dahlan, a UAE-based rival to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Palestinian authorities have previously accused Israel of blocking much-needed vaccine shipments to Gaza. A Palestinian Authority-acquired supply of Sputnik V vaccine doses arrived last week after delays. Sunday's shipment arrived via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. 

Palestine is in desperate need of some $30 million in funding to complete its inoculation drive, the World Bank said on Monday.

The World Bank has urged Israel to donate surplus vaccine doses to Palestinian authorities.

"Palestinian and Israeli authorities should coordinate in the financing, purchase and distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines," it said.

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