Oct 18, 2021

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Israel announced last week that it had come to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to transfer between 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19. But after the first batch of 90,000 doses arrived in Ramallah, the PA announced it was refusing the vaccines.

”It was found that the doses did not conform to the technical specifications as previously agreed upon, and that their expiry date was close,” minister Mai Alkaila said, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

”Hence, we reached out to Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, and a decision was made to cancel the deal,” Alkaila added.

The Israeli authorities claimed that they had informed the PA of the expiration date and all necessary information before delivering the vaccines.

The Israeli Health Ministry said on Saturday night that “the COVID-19 vaccines we gave the Palestinian Authority were perfectly valid. The expiration dates were known to the PA and everything was agreed upon in advance. The Palestinians received the same vaccines that are currently given to Israelis.” 

It should be noted that the PA set two conditions on the delivery of the vaccines: the agreement would not be signed under the “State of Palestine” and the second condition was that the vaccines would not be transferred to the Gaza Strip.

AMAN in conjunction with the Palestinian Health Professions Syndicate and the Palestinian group National Democratic Forum demanded the formation of an independent investigation committee.

Some Palestinians are unhappy with the actions of their government. The Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) released a statement on Sunday criticizing the PA for shirking its duty.

“It is illogical that the first source of information in an important issue related to the health of Palestinian citizens is the occupation [i.e. Israel],” the statement read. “It is the responsibility of the Palestinian government, represented by the Ministry of Health, to announce the details of the deal before concluding it, in order to enhance the principle of transparency.”

According to the agreement, a shipment of vaccines scheduled to be delivered to the PA in September would be delivered to Israel. After refusing delivery on Friday, the PA requested that delivery be expedited to arrive sooner. The deal with Israel was intended to help vaccinate a large number of Palestinians months earlier than the PA would have otherwise been able to achieve. 

Some have mistakenly accused Israel of neglecting to take responsibility for “occupied territories”, as required by the Geneva convention. Israel has no such obligation to provide health services for Gaza which it left in 2005. Under the Oslo accords, responsibility for health care for Arabs in Judea and Samaria was transferred from Israel to the PA as they became classified as citizens of the PA. The agreement specified that vaccinations were entirely under the purview of the PA government. Though Israel has run an extensive and successful vaccination program, with more than 55 % of it’s 5.1 million citizens already receiving both doses of the vaccine, the PA has refused any help from Israel in vaccinating its own citizens, choosing instead to import the Russian and Chinese versions of the vaccine. According to the Palestinian health ministry, just over 270,000 of its citizens have received their two doses in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel has vaccinated an estimated 100,000 Palestinians with work permits in Israel as well as the residents of the eastern sections of Jerusalem whose health services are registered under Israeli GMOs.