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At the UN, Israel In the Dock Over Vaccines

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Israel remains perennially in the dock at that kangaroo court, the UN. Its latest accuser is Tor Wennesland, the new UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. His first report to the Security Council, focusing on the coronavirus vaccine, is here:

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The United Nations has called on Israel to help make vaccines available to the Palestinians, but has stopped short of asking it to distribute the vaccines to them….

“This will be critical for the broader efforts of both governments to control the pandemic and is also in line with Israel’s obligations under international law,” Wennesland told the United Nations Security Council, which held its only meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Tuesday.

Israel has no “obligation under international law” to provide vaccine to the Palestinians. And that has to be recognized even – or especially – by those at the U.N. who are so quick to sit in judgment of the Jewish state.

Apparently Tor Wennesland has not read the Oslo Accords of 1995 between Israel and the Palestinians. Given his new position as UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, surely he has a duty to do so. Or is that asking too much? And when he does, he will find that Israel does not have, as he claims, any “obligations under international law” to vaccinate the Palestinians. According to the Oslo Accords of 1995, Annex III, Article 17, it is the Palestinians who have the sole responsibility for the medical care – and “vaccinations” are explicitly mentioned as part of that care — of their people.

Here is the relevant article included in Annex III:

ARTICLE 17

Health

  1. Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side, including the health insurance system.
  2. 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.

There is nothing subject to interpretation here. Vaccination of Palestinians is the responsibility of the Palestinians themselves. End of story.

Cooperative Israeli-Palestinian efforts to combat the pandemic in the Palestinian territories have been lauded, including by the UN….

Yes, Israel should be “lauded” for what it has done to help the Palestinians deal with the pandemic in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel was under no obligation to supply PPE (gloves, masks, gowns) to the PA, but it supplied them nonetheless. It was under no obligation to provide oxygenators and ventilators, but provided them nonetheless. It was under no obligation to train Palestinian medical personnel in the treatment of patients with coronavirus, but did so nonetheless. That does not mean it is now obligated to provide vaccines.

The Palestinian leaders made no plans for vaccinating their population, set aside no money to pay for vaccines, failed to enter into negotiations with vaccine manufacturers, did not ask any of their fabulously rich “Arab brothers” for help in buying vaccines, but apparently thought that in the end Israel would take care of their needs. And so, ignoring their solemn commitment under the Oslo Accords, they transferred their own responsibility for vaccinations onto Israel, and have continued to attack it for not doing what the PA itself should have done. And even now, when they have finally contracted to buy four million doses of a Russian vaccine, the Palestinians are still complaining about Israel’s supposed “failure” to provide the PA with vaccines.

The discrepancy between Israel’s advanced vaccine program, by which it already protects more than a million of its citizens, while there is a complete absence of any Palestinian Authority program, has garnered international attention.

Israel has been criticized for not directly providing vaccines to the Palestinians living under PA auspices, a move that would appear to violate the principle of PA self-governance set up under the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords….

This is tortuously worded, and one might be forgiven for thinking it is Israel that has “violated the principle of PA self-governance.” No, it is those who are now blaming Israel for not vaccinating the Palestinians who not only “appear” to violate, but do in fact violate, the self-governance set out in the 1995 Oslo Accords, setting out the PA’s responsibility for the health — including the vaccination – of its people.

For months the Palestinians did not ask Israel for vaccines, but nonetheless decided to criticize the Jewish state for not providing them. When Jerusalem noted that it was under no obligation to do so, and cited Annex III, Article 17, of the Oslo Accords of 1995, the Palestinians had no reply. Instead, they simply continued to complain about Israel, for not furnishing them with vaccines. But at the same time, in mid-December the PA had agreed to buy four million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told the UNSC on Tuesday that, “the occupying power has not provided any vaccine to the Palestinian people under occupation to this day, insisting that it is under no obligation to do so.”…

The PA Foreign Minister knows perfectly well – he surely has carefully studied Annex III of the 1995 Oslo Accords — that Israel is “under no obligation” to provide any vaccine, but Malki hopes his audience will not, and won’t bother to find out. For much of the world, a way must be found to always blame Israel, no matter how blatantly the PA has avoided its own unambiguous duties.

Wennesland said that the “Palestinian government is working to procure a supply of vaccines and anticipates support through the global COVAX-AMC facility. The initial allocations of vaccines to cover priority groups are expected in the first half of 2021.”

So we finally learn that the PA has in fact arranged for an initial delivery of four million doses of vaccine, almost immediately, from the Russians, with more promised to cover the entire population. And Israel has offered to “facilitate their transfer.” But that has not prevented the PA from continuing to condemn the Israelis for their supposed “failure” to provide, from their own tight supply, vaccine to the Palestinians.

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