Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday acknowledged sharing coronavirus vaccines with a number of friendly countries that, he said, have given favors to Israel in the past.
Speaking to reporters after it was revealed that he has promised a total of some 100,000 to vaccines to up to 20 countries, Netanyahu said that Israel has “more than enough” vaccines for its own population and that he had personally decided to share what he called a symbolic number of doses to reward allies.
“It was done in return for things we already received, through many contacts in various areas that I will not detail here,” Netanyahu said. “I think it absolutely buys goodwill.”
Netanyahu refused to further elaborate, while insisting no Israeli would lose out on the vaccine.
The premier also said he made the decision to give vaccines to other countries after consulting with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office. Top ministers and health officials have said they were unaware of the plan.
The comments came after the Kan public broadcaster reported 19 countries are now set to get vaccines from Israel, while Army Radio put the number at 20.
Among the countries reportedly slated to get vaccines is Mauritania, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
Other countries named by Kan included Cyprus, Hungary, Guatemala, Czech Republic, Maldives, San Marino, Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Uganda and Guinea. Each country will receive between 1,000 and 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The broadcaster revealed Tuesday that Netanyahu was offering vaccines to various countries in return for diplomatic support, and would send thousands of doses for medical staff in the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that it was sending thousands of vaccines to the Palestinian Authority as well as shots to several countries, without specifying further.
The reports on Netanyahu’s hopes to use coronavirus vaccines to help diplomatic relations come after Israel was said to have agreed to purchase an unknown number of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine doses for use in Syria as part of a deal for the return of an Israeli woman who was held by the Syrian regime after she crossed the border two weeks ago.
Israel’s vaccination campaign is far ahead of any other country’s worldwide. More than four and a half million Israelis, or almost 50% of the country’s total population, have now received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Over three million Israelis have received both doses.