Israel stops sending jabs to countries willing to make Jerusalem embassy move

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Israel stops sending jabs to countries willing to make Jerusalem embassy move

Short-lived policy shelved following barrage of criticism from coalition partners amid claims it may also be illegal

Israeli PM with a delivery of Covid vaccines
Israeli PM with a delivery of Covid vaccines

Israel has stopped shipping Covid-19 vaccines to countries who move their embassies to Jerusalem after a barrage of criticism amid claims that it was illegal.

The short-lived policy, taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without consulting ministers, was reversed on Thursday following outrage that states such as Honduras and Guatemala – defence clients moving their envoys to Jerusalem – were getting Israeli vaccine stock.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz was one of several coalition partners to hit the roof, saying it had badly damaged Israel’s international reputation, while Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he would review its legality.

In a letter, Gantz raged. “This is not the first time that significant defence and diplomatic decisions are being made behind the backs of the relevant bodies, while possibly damaging our national security, our foreign relations, and the rule of law,” he said.

While a limited number of vaccines have been supplied to the Palestinian Authority, he said this “followed due process” and was based on a “medical imperative for Israel”. Netanyahu was trying to send 50,000 vaccines to foreign friends “as a gesture of goodwill”, but quickly backtracked.

Scrambling to save face ahead of a March election, Netanyahu said “not a single vaccine” would be deducted from the citizens of Israel and stock headed abroad was “only symbolic”.

He had planned to send vaccines to countries that vote in support of Israel at the United Nations, including to Hungary and the Czech Republic, as well as to strategic economic partners such as Cyprus, with whom Israel is coordinating over Mediterranean gas.

Israel negotiated hundreds of thousands of extra vaccine shots from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in return for data from the country’s advanced vaccination programme. It has so far given about 10,000 vaccines to the Palestinians.

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