Sipping an iced coffee in a Tel Aviv café this week, it felt like it was 2018 again. Nobody wears a face mask, tables are close together and there’s no hand gel in sight. Very few people one meets even talk about Covid-19. Though a tiny increase in the occurrence of the Indian variant has been noted in recent days, Israel is rightly proud of its vaccination and mass immunity success.
It is therefore surprising that Israel’s offer to advance over one million Pfizer vaccines to the Palestinians has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority only hours after they initially accepted the deal. Many countries are still grappling with the ethical dilemma of when to offer their own supply of vaccines abroad to help others; few are expecting such offers to be rejected.
Back in January, as Israel was vaccinating its citizens at an impressive rate, some commentators suggested it should also be vaccinating Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel pointed out that the 1993 Oslo Accords agreed Palestinians would run their own healthcare system. Even the Palestinian Director-General for Public Health was clear: ‘We haven’t asked for any vaccine from Israel,’ he said. ‘It’s our responsibility to procure and roll-out the Covid vaccine and all other vaccines. That’s been the case going back years.’