Israel pledges $60 million to global effort to find coronavirus vaccine

At donors conference co-hosted by the EU, Saudi Arabia and others, PM says he hopes Israel’s ‘unique culture of innovation’ can help beat the pandemic; warns it is ‘far from over’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday pledged $60 million (about NIS 210 million) at an international donors conference raising funds for the joint fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Like all countries, Israel is now trying to find the right balance between protecting the health of our citizens by preventing another spike in infections, and enabling the reopening of our economy, but, ultimately, to ensure both the public health and national prosperity, we must all work together on improving diagnostics, accelerating therapies and ultimately developing a vaccine,” he said in a prerecorded message to the virtual pledging event.

“I am confident that Israel’s leading research institutions, its world renowned scientists and our unique culture of innovation can enable us to play an important role in advancing solutions on all three fronts,” he went on. “We hope to work with other countries to leverage our unique capabilities to find solutions for the benefit of all.”

At the same time, the current epidemic “is far from over,” he warned. “At best, we’re only at the end of the beginning.”

Netanyahu was one of dozens of world leaders who participated in the Coronavirus Global Response, which was initiated by the European Union, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the presidency of the G20.

Other regional leaders who addressed the event included Jordan’s King Abdullah, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Saudi Health Minister Tawfig AlRabiah.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders also addressed the videoconference.

No one from the United States participated in the event.

Netanyahu was invited to take part by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who hosted the event, during a telephone call last week.

In his brief message, Netanyahu welcomed the EU’s initiative, saying that the challenge posed by the coronavirus needs to be tackled by the united global community.

“Defeating a global pandemic demands a global partnership,” he said.

Like many countries, Israel was “greatly affected” by the coronavirus, but “fortunately, our casualties thus far have been relatively low,” he went on, crediting Israeli discipline and “early action” taken by his government.

The pledging conference’s goal was to raise 7.5 billion euros (about $8.2 billion) for the World Health Organization and various organizations it partnered with to develop and distribute worldwide treatments and vaccines against the coronavirus. They include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, the Global Fund, the Wellcome Trust and the World Bank.

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