The Israeli Minister of Health told CNN that he does not believe that Israel has an obligation or responsibility to provide Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with a coronavirus vaccine, but instead stressed cooperation in treatment to avoid an increase in new cases of Covid-19 in the Palestinian territories.
Yuli Edelstein’s comments come after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was in informal discussions with the Israeli Ministry of Health regarding the potential supply of vaccines to the Palestinian health workforce “as a target group of immediate priority.”
We are cooperating with the Palestinians to make sure they have access to appropriate treatment for coronavirus patients. At this stage, we do not provide vaccinations, but we understand that it is in Israel’s interest to ensure that we do not enter a situation in which we are vaccinated and we get out of trouble, and on the Palestinian side there is another increase in numbers, Edelstein said on a new day on CNN.
Israel leads the world in vaccinating its people, with nearly 20% of the population receiving at least one dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. But it has come under criticism from some human rights groups, which say it has obligations under international law to provide vaccines to Palestinians as well.
Amnesty International, for example, said last week: “The Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and act immediately to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are provided equally and fairly to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
Groups such as Amnesty International point to the Fourth Geneva Convention which speaks, among other duties of an occupying power, of ensuring “the measures necessary to combat the spread of infectious diseases and epidemics.”
Israel says that the Oslo Accords, signed with the Palestinians in the 1990s, handed over responsibility for providing health care to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.
The Director General of the Public Health Directorate at the Palestinian Ministry of Health told CNN that the Palestinian Authority has not requested Israeli assistance with vaccinations, which is contradicted by the head of the Union of Medical Relief Committees, Mustafa Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian politician. He told CNN reports that the Palestinian Authority sought to get about 10,000 doses for healthcare workers that were correct. Barghouti said that Israel refused the request.
The World Health Organization said that the Israeli Ministry of Health has been informed that it is ready to “explore the option” of immediate vaccinations for medical workers in the Palestinian Territories, but was told that it is “not in a position at present to provide vaccines due to the lack of vaccines in Israel.”
Edelstein told CNN: “It is in our interest; it does not in any way mean that it is our duty or our responsibility. The Palestinians run the Palestinian Authority … But as has happened over the past several months, we have always been willing to help with equipment, with good advice, with products or Medication, and this kind of cooperation will continue. ”
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said, on Monday, that it had registered the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for what it called emergency use, with an initial payment expected to arrive on the lands within a month, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which sponsored the development of the vaccine. The Ministry of Health says it has also signed contracts with three suppliers of Covid-19 vaccines.