Israel has been accused of using its surplus of Covid-19 vaccines as diplomatic leverage in suspected ‘jabs-for-votes’ deals that analysts think may be illegal.
National broadcaster Kan reported that Israel will soon start delivering vaccines to countries in exchange for their diplomatic support, with Honduras – which recently agreed to move its embassy to Jerusalem – first in line.
Analysts immediately suggested that rich-world countries offering lifesaving Covid vaccines to poorer countries in return for support within international fora such as the United Nations was illegal.
Israel’s military initially censored reports that Benjamin Netanyahu was considering using its Covid-19 vaccines to curry favour with the country’s new Gulf allies but lifted the gag order once it was reported internationally.
The Israeli prime minister’s election challenger Gideon Sa’ar said it was “incomprehensible” for Netanyahu to “censor something that Damascus and Moscow know about but Israelis do not”.
It comes on the back of growing anger at reports that Israel paid Russia £850,000 for its ‘Sputnik’ vaccine to be sent to Syria in exchange for an Israeli woman who had strayed over the Israel-Syria border. In return, Israel returned two Syrian shepherds.
In the same week, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Israel’s Health Ministry was offering 100,000 vaccines for Palestinians who cross into Israel to work. The other five million Palestinians are still awaiting their first jab.
The families of two Israeli soldiers whose bodies are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip have urged the Israeli government to offer Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for their return. Last week Israel finally allowed 2,000 doses into Gaza for the territory’s most medically vulnerable patients.
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