Israel 'rewards' allies with surplus Covid-19 vaccines

Israel 'rewards' allies with surplus Covid-19 vaccines
Honduras, the Czech Republic, and Guatemala have all opened or promised to open diplomatic offices in Jerusalem.
3 min read
23 February, 2021
The vaccine shipments are reportedly tied to countries' recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem [Getty]
Israel is rewarding key allies, who have taken steps to recognise its contested sovereignty over Jerusalem, with surplus coronavirus vaccines, according to a report by the country's public broadcaster.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that Israel would celebrate the success of its inoculation campaign by gifting surplus vaccine doses to other countries.

Israel has been contacted by several countries asking for help acquiring Covid-19 vaccines, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

"Thousands" of doses will be shared with the Palestinian Authority which governs parts of the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu's office said.

The move, which will not be realised until Israel completes its own immunisation drive, comes amid widespread criticism over the government's refusal to help vaccinate Palestinians in territories it occupies.

His office did not name which other countries could receive surplus vaccine doses, however, a report by public broadcaster KAN indicates countries that have lent Israel diplomatic support may be next in line.

A plane is due to depart later on Tuesday to send a shipment to Honduras, according to the report.

The central American country has agreed to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a contentious measure that few countries have taken as it is seen as a recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the contested holy city.

East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move widely considered illegal under international law with the Palestinians seeing it as a future capital of an independent state.

The Czech Republic and Guatemala have also requested vaccine shipments from Israel, according to KAN.

Guatemala was one of the few countries to back former US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital.

It shifted its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018 shortly after the US made the move.

Last year, the Czech Republic announced it would open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.
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It is one of only two European Union member states to have done so.

The other, Hungary, is also thought to have requested surplus vaccine doses from Israel.

'Vaccines for normalisation'

Israel also intends to donate a shipment of coronavirus vaccines to an unnamed country in return for the normalisation of ties with what nation, the Army Radio reported on Sunday.

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.

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 officials denied those reports.

Palestinian inoculation drive 'blocked by Israel'

Israel has been condemned by human rights groups for failing to distribute Covid-19 vaccinations in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

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 now on two separate occasions promised to send thousands of vaccine doses to the West Bank in order to immunise Palestinian health workers.

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. 

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

"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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