Many recent news reports of Israel’s supposed failure to vaccinate Palestinians against COVID-19 don’t tell the whole story. While it’s true that many Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza have yet to be vaccinated, further details shed light onto the real reasons why these individuals are left to wait while Israel continues to vaccinate large portions of its population.
Health Care Responsibilities Defined by the Oslo Accords
The Oslo Accords, which consists of two separate agreements that were reached in 1993 and 1995 by the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), were established in an attempt to reach peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. A clause in the Oslo Accords states that the current Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing health care to Palestinians. This means that rather than the state of Israel, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for vaccinating Palestinians.
Israel’s Efforts to Vaccinate Palestinians
Even though Israel isn’t mandated under law to vaccinate Palestinians per the Oslo Accords, the state has still given the vaccine to many Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship. The Israeli government also agreed to vaccinate roughly 100,000 Palestinians who travel into the state from the West Bank regularly for work. Palestinians who are currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons have also received the vaccine. Israel has given an additional 2,000 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority, but the overwhelming majority of Palestinians remain unvaccinated. However, the Palestinian Authority has received some additional vaccine doses from Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Disputes Have Slowed Progress
Ongoing disputes between the Israelis and Palestinians have undoubtedly contributed to the slow rollout of vaccines among Palestinians. Many would describe the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank as an active state of war. Administrative delays, supply blockades, and terrorist threats against Israel from groups like Hamas are among the main factors that have made accessing the vaccine difficult for many Palestinians. The Israeli government has also been accused of giving extra vaccine supplies to allies in other nations rather than the Palestinians.
The complicated nature of Israel’s vaccine efforts versus Palestinian responsibility has added to the difficulty of vaccinating the Palestinian population. Hope lies on the horizon that all Palestinians will soon receive the vaccine doses that they desperately need to keep themselves and the rest of the world safe from COVID-19.