by Hugh Fitzgerald
The PA on Friday cancelled a deal to receive between 1 and 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Israel, claiming that the first shipment of 90,000 doses showed an expiration date earlier than what the PA had been promised. The story is here: “Palestinians Cancel Deal for 1 Million COVID Vaccines From Israel,” Algemeiner, June 18, 2021:
The Palestinian Authority (PA) cancelled a deal on Friday to receive soon-to-expire COVID-19 vaccines from Israel after an initial Israeli shipment showed an expiration date sooner than had been agreed, the PA health minister said.
Israel and the PA announced a vaccine swap deal earlier on Friday that would have seen Israel send up to 1.4 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to the PA, in exchange for receiving a reciprocal number of doses from the PA later this year.
The doses were due to “expire soon,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement announcing the deal. The PA said they had been “approved in order to speed up the vaccination process” in the West Bank and Gaza.
Prime Minister Bennett’s office said at the time the deal was announced on Friday morning that the first shipment of 90,000 doses would “expire soon.” There was no attempt by Israeli authorities to fool or cajole the PA, which had been kept fully informed about the expiration dates before it had agreed to accept the initial shipment. These expiration dates for the vaccine, some expiring at the end of June and the rest at the end of July – were well-known to the PA recipients, though they then acted as if Israel had pulled a fast one. And these expiration dates applied only to the initial shipment of 90,000 doses, less than 10% of the total Israel had promised to send. And all the PA had to do was to start inoculating its people immediately; in two weeks it could certainly manage to use tens of thousands of doses from the original shipment. Why not at least try to use as many of the doses as possible before they expired?
“They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use,” PA Health Minister Mai Alkaila told reporters later on Friday.
This is false. Prime Minister Bennett’s office had said, early that same day, that the vaccines in the first shipment “would expire soon.” There was no attempt to fool the PA. Furthermore, some – how much? – of the initial shipment would indeed consist of vaccines whose expiration date is the end of July, which is what the PA health minister said the Israelis “had told us.” The PA is trying to make it appear that Israel was callously trying to palm off on the Palestinians just-about-to-expire vaccines. Not at all. Of the 90,000 doses, some were still good for two weeks; and the rest for six weeks. Nothing prevented the PA from administering as many of those doses as fast as it could. If some doses in the initial shipment expired before they could be given, so be it. Why turn down not only this initial shipment, without attempting to administer at least some of the doses, but far worse, why cancel all of the nearly one million doses, not close to expiration, that Israel had offered to send the PA? Trying to turn this good-samaritan act of Israel into its very opposite — a cruel trick of the Israelis who would be sending only doses that were close to expiration — is the Palestinian attempt always and everywhere to make Israel look bad.
“But (the expiration) turned out to be in June. That’s not enough time to use them, so we rejected them,” she said.
No, the expiration dates for the vaccines in the first shipment turned out to be “in June and July.”
The PA cancelled the deal over the date issue, a PA spokesman said, and sent the initial shipment of around 90,000 doses back to Israel.
Bennett’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Israeli news site Ynet reported that the doses delivered to the Palestinians on Friday were valid until the end of June or July, with those being sent first due to their earlier expiration date. Future shipments, the outlet said, would have later expiration dates.
Israel’s Army Radio quoted an unnamed Israeli Ministry of Health official, saying, “We don’t understand what they want, the vaccines are fine.”
What the PA wants is to turn Israel’s generous offer against it, making it appear to the world that Israel was caught out, trying to offload soon-to-expire vaccines on the desperate Palestinians.
Some rights groups have criticized Israel, which led one of the world’s swiftest vaccination campaigns, for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in the West Bank and Gaza.
Those so-called “rights groups” are determined to blacken Israel’s image, and they have wrongly blamed Israel for the failure of the PA to commit resources early on to buy the vaccine. The PA chose in the early days of the pandemic not to contract to buy vaccines when they were approved for sale, but instead to spend its money on other things, including the “Pay-For-Slay” program, on which the PA now spends $350 million dollars a year. That $350 million could have bought enough COVID-19 vaccine for the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank; the PA chose to reward past terrorism, and incentivize future terrorism, over vaccinating its own people.
Israeli officials argue that under the Oslo peace accords, the PA health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
There is no question that the PA health ministry alone is responsible for vaccinating its population, no matter how often the army of anti-Israelites insist that Israel has a duty to vaccinate them. The responsibility falls squarely on the PA; the Oslo Accords (1995), Annex III, Article 17, paragraph 2, is unambiguous: “The Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations. In this regard, the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population with the vaccines listed in Schedule 3.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves towards the Palestinians by Bennett, who was sworn in on Sunday and replaced veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinians were not being deceived by the Israelis, as they are trying now to suggest. The PA is betting that stories will appear in the world’s media accusing Israel of bad faith. The headlines will not read, as they should, “Israel supplies Palestinians with more than one million doses of vaccines,” but instead “Israel tries to palm off expired vaccines on Palestinians.” If thousands or tens of thousands, of unvaccinated Palestinians have to sicken and some even die, as the result of the PA’s cancellation of the entire Israeli shipments of more than a million doses of vaccine, in the cruel political calculus of the PA, it will have been well worth it.
First published in Jihad Watch.