WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders slammed the Israeli government for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to countries with which it has bolstered relations in recent years before sending vaccines to Palestinians.
"As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control," Sanders tweeted. "It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting."
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Israel will send a few thousand doses of vaccines to several countries with which it has boosted its ties in recent years – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Guatemala and Honduras. Israel is also expected to send additional vaccines to health care workers in the West Bank, as well as another unnamed country, as confirmed by the Prime Minister's Office.
“In light of the successful vaccination campaign in Israel, the leading country in the world in inoculating the population, Israel has received many requests from the countries of the world to assist with the supply of vaccines,” the Prime Minister's Office statement read.
The Kan public broadcaster reported that a total of roughly 100,000 Moderna vaccines are being shipped to some 15 allies, as well as a number of countries in Africa that have strong or budding ties with Israel.
Israel has shared just 2,000 doses of vaccines with the Palestinian Authority to inoculate West Bank medical workers. Otherwise, the Palestinians have struggled to procure their own vaccines.
Guatemala moved its Israel embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, while Honduras has announced its intention to move their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The Czech Republic has said it plans to open a "diplomatic office" in Jerusalem. In 2019, Hungary opened a "trade office" in the city as well.
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Sanders is the latest Democratic lawmaker to voice concern about Israel's vaccine policy toward the Palestinians, following several members of Congress. Representative Jamaal Bowman, a first-term congressman from New York, sent a letter to Israel’s acting consul general in New York, Israel Nitzan, questioning why Israeli settlers in the West Bank were receiving vaccines while Palestinians were not. “I was heartened to read that the Israeli government has recently agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the vaccine to Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers, but the entire population in the West Bank and Gaza must also be covered,” Bowman wrote earlier this month.
The State Department recently said that it welcomes reports to facilitate vaccine distribution but noted that "we believe it's important for Palestinians to achieve increased access to COVID vaccines in the weeks ahead" and "we know we can't put the scourge of COVID-19 behind us until the world has access to these same safe and effective vaccines."