Israel's Gantz demands halt to 'illegal' vaccine gifts

Israel's Gantz demands halt to 'illegal' vaccine gifts
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz condemned Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to distribute unused coronavirus vaccines to other countries.
2 min read
25 February, 2021
Gantz, like Netanyahu, is facing election in March [Getty]

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called Thursday to freeze distribution of surplus coronavirus vaccines to allies, claiming the move was "illegal".

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would send a "limited quantity" of vaccines to the Palestinians and several countries, including two that have announced plans to boost their diplomatic presence in Jerusalem.

But in letter Thursday to Netanyahu, Gantz said that while the decision to give vaccines to the Palestinian Authority followed "due process" and Israel's medical needs, "supplying vaccines to other countries was never broached in relevant forums."

Gantz, who like Netanyahu is facing election in March, said the issue must be first discussed by the security cabinet, claiming the policy was pushed through without the required consultation making it "against the law."

Honduras, which said last year that it would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, is on the list of recipients, sources confirmed to AFP.

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

Hungary and Guatemala are also reportedly set to receive vaccines.

Israel has administered the two recommended shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to more than 3.2 million people, over a third of its population. 

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

On Wednesday, Netanyahu said the vaccines to be given were "symbolic numbers" of surpluses that "wouldn't come at the expense of even one vaccine of an Israeli citizen," and bore diplomatic weight.

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. 

But Netanyahu, who describes Jerusalem as the Jewish state's "undivided capital", cheers nations that conduct diplomacy with Israel from the disputed city.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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