Israel’s health minister told CNN he does not believe Israel has an obligation or responsibility to provide Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza with a vaccine against the coronavirus, but instead insisted on cooperation in the matter. treatment to prevent an outbreak of new cases of Covid-19 in the Palestinian territories.
Yuli Edelstein’s comments come after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had had informal discussions with Israel’s Ministry of Health regarding the possible provision of vaccines for Palestinian health workers as “Immediate priority target group”.
“We are working with the Palestinians to make sure they receive appropriate treatment for coronavirus patients. At this point, we are not providing vaccines, but we understand that it is in Israel’s interest to ensure that we do not end up in a situation where we are vaccinated and without a problem, and on the Palestinian side. , there is a further increase in the number, ”Edelstein told CNN’s New Day.
Israel is the world leader in immunizing its population, with nearly 20% of the population having received at least one dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. But it has come under criticism from some human rights groups who say they have obligations under international law to also provide vaccines to Palestinians.
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 equally and equitably provided to Palestinians living under it. occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ”
Groups like Amnesty invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention which, among other duties of an occupying power, speaks of ensuring “the measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”.
Israel argues that the Oslo accords, signed with the Palestinians in the 1990s, place the responsibility for providing health care for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The director general of the Public Health Directorate of the Palestinian Ministry of Health told CNN that the Palestinian Authority did not seek help from Israel for vaccines, which was contradicted by the chairman of the Union of Medical Relief Committees, Mustafa Barghouti, himself a Palestinian political leader. He told CNN that reports from the Palestinian Authority requested about 10,000 doses from health workers. Barghouti said the request was rejected by Israel.
WHO said it had been informed that the Israeli Ministry of Health was ready to “explore the option” of immediate vaccines for medical personnel in the Palestinian territories, but was informed that it was “not currently in operation. able to provide vaccines due to a vaccine shortage in Israel. “
Edelstein told CNN: “It’s in our best interests; this does not mean in any way that it is our obligation or our responsibility. The Palestinians rule the Palestinian Authority… but as it has been happening for several months, we were always ready to help with materials, with good advice, with products or with medicines, and this type of cooperation will continue. ”
The Palestinian health ministry said on Monday it had registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for what it called emergency use, with a first batch due to arrive in the territories within a month, the Fund said. Russian direct investment, which sponsored the development of the vaccine. The health ministry said it has also signed contracts with three other suppliers of Covid-19 vaccines.