AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s King Abdullah II claimed Thursday that Israel not providing vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip was counterproductive for the Jewish state.
“The Israelis have had a very successful rollout of the vaccine, however the Palestinians have not,” Abdullah told the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“You cannot vaccinate one part of your society and not the other and think that you are going to be safe,” he said via videoconference. “That is the number one lesson that COVID-19 taught us.”
Israel launched its vaccination drive a month ago. Since then, nearly 2.8 million of its population of 9.3 million have received a first shot, with half of that number already getting the second dose too.
Human rights groups and the Palestinian Authority have criticized the vaccination of West Bank settlers but not Palestinians, even though the Oslo Accords, a series of bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestinians signed in the 1990s, state that the PA is in charge of health services for the Palestinians in the territory, including immunizations.
Earlier this month, the Palestine Liberation Organization urged the international community “to hold Israel to account” and ensure that it provides vaccines to all Palestinians living in territories controlled by Israel. Jerusalem has said no such official request has been made.
Moreover, Palestinian health officials have said that they are not planning to receive any shots from Israel, and have vigorously denied reports that Israel transferred 200 doses of coronavirus vaccine as a humanitarian gesture.
Abdullah said Thursday that the novel coronavirus “does not care about borders, the rich or the poor or whoever.”
“We have got to look at the practicalities and the challenges that are ahead of us, to be able to communicate with each other and realize that we are one world, one small village,” he said.
The matter has raised concerns on both sides of the Green Line. Some Israeli health experts have indicated there can be no herd immunity in Israel without Palestinians getting inoculated against the virus as well.
In mid-January, under pressure from rights groups, the Israel Prison Service said it had begun vaccinating all its detainees, including the estimated 4,400 Palestinians held in its jails.
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank while two million pack the impoverished Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the Hamas terror group since 2007 after it seized control of the enclave from the Palestinian Authority. Hamas openly seeks to destroy Israel.
Jordan, which is home to Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees, launched its own vaccination campaign earlier this month.
It says it hopes to provide free vaccines to a quarter of the country’s 10 million people, including foreign residents.