Israel is accused of ‘racism’ by Palestinian PM after excluding 4million people in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine program
- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to vaccinate all citizens by April
- Israel’s Arab citizens and Palestinians in East Jerusalem will get a dose
- Pledge will not, however, be extended to those living in the occupied territories
- Officials will travel into the West Bank to give vaccine to Jewish settlers
Israel has been accused of racism by the Palestinian prime minister after excluding four million people living in the West Bank and Gaza from its Covid-19 vaccine drive.
During a press conference at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to vaccinate every citizen by the end of March.
Israel’s Arab residents and the Palestinians of east Jerusalem will be included in the country’s vaccination drive. Palestinians living in the West Bank, and those living in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, will not be given a dose.
Officials will however travel into the West Bank to make the vaccine available for Jewish settlers.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who recently accused Israel of ‘racism’ for its refusal to vaccinate the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza, has not publicly requested vaccines.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured being given the vaccine on 9 January, pledged to vaccinate every citizen by the end of March. Palestinians living in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem will not be included in the vaccination drive
Israel, which is leading the vaccine race with one in five people receiving an initial dose, argues that it is not responsible for inoculating citizens in the Palestinian territories.
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has previously said Israel will consider helping the territories once it has taken care of its own citizens.
Major human rights groups say Israel, which controls the territories’ borders, is obligated to vaccinate Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza under international law.
With tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians working in Israel and its West Bank settlements, experts say Israel should share vaccines on ethical and practical grounds.
The Israel Prison Service said yesterday it would include the 4,400 Palestinian inmates currently imprisoned in its jails in its vaccination drive following calls from rights groups, Palestinian officials and Israel’s attorney general.
A health worker collects swab samples from people to test for the coronavirus in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip last week. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, will not be given the coronavirus vaccine by Israel
According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, about 250 Palestinians in Israeli prisons have tested positive already for the coronavirus.
But the Jewish state faced harsh criticism when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to get inoculated.
Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, who are living under varying degrees of Israeli control, are yet to receive any vaccinations.
Rights groups have also argued that Israel is obligated to fight the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics, as laid out in the Geneva Conventions.
Israel has previously argued that the Palestinian Authority (PA), who control the West Bank, are required to meet its citizens’ healthcare needs under the terms of the Oslo Accords.
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Clalit Health Services in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, in east Jerusalem last week
The interim peace agreement, signed in the 1990s by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), gave Palestinians a degree of self-rule.
The PA has accused Israel of ‘ignoring its duties’ and ‘committing racial discrimination’ against Palestinians.
Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, has argued that Israel is ‘depriving’ the citizens of the West Bank of their right to healthcare.
The PA has said it has signed contracts with four vaccine providers, including the maker’s of Russia’s Sputnik V.
The authority said it expects to have sufficient doses to vaccinate 70 per cent of the Palestinian population, in both the West Bank and Gaza, with doses expected by mid-March.
Israel expects to have vaccinated its entire population by the end of the same month.
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