Cabinet Okays Vaccination of Palestinians Working in Israel, West Bank Settlements

Israeli medical staff to administer Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine across West Bank. Some 100,000 Palestinian laborers are estimated to hold a working permit in Israel, settlements

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Palestinian workers tested for COVID at a checkpoint near Hebron in the West Bank, 2020.
Palestinian workers tested for COVID at a checkpoint near Hebron in the West Bank, 2020.Credit: MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA / REUTERS

The cabinet has approved extending Israel's vaccination campaign to Palestinian laborers working in Israel and in West Bank settlements, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said in a statement Sunday.

Some 100,000 Palestinians are estimated to hold a permit allowing them to work inside Israel and the settlements.

The inoculation campaign is set to begin in the coming days, the statement said, without disclosing how many vaccine doses were allocated for it.

According to the statement, vaccination centers for Palestinians working in Israel will be set up at West Bank crossings. Vaccination centers for laborers working in Jewish settlements will be set up in industrial zones across the West Bank.

Israeli medical staff will administer the vaccines, which were manufactured by Moderna, it added.

Ran Goldstein, executive director of Physicians for Human Rights Israel, said the decision to vaccinate Palestinian workers is "an essential and necessary step, and better late than never."

At the same time, he added, "Israel has an ethical and legal obligation to vaccinate the entire Palestinian population. It is appropriate to put considerations and interests of health over every other consideration, and act to inoculate everyone who lives in the space over which [Israel] rules."

The Palestinian Health Ministry announced two weeks ago that Israel has agreed to vaccinate up to 100,000 Palestinian workers in Israel, following a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli health officials.

Some 30,000 workers have been sleeping in Israel on a daily basis, in a bid to prevent infection by people moving between Israel and the West Bank. However, some officials estimate that many other workers return to the West Bank each day illegally.

The Palestinian Authority has also asked Israel to ensure vehicles used by its Health Ministry are allowed to move freely in the West Bank, particularly in the area of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills, where Palestinians say Israel has obstructed health workers' movement.

Israel has provided 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinian Authority earlier this month, allowing it to begin vaccinating medical workers, and the PA says it independently acquired 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.

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