Israel has vaccinated more than half its population of 9.2 million with a first dose, and more than a third with a second dose, but has so far provided the Palestinian Authority with only 2,000 vaccine doses and promised 3,000 more. More than 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, with an additional two million in Gaza.
Israeli officials have said it is in their interest to help the Palestinians once Israeli citizens, including hundreds of thousands of settlers in the West Bank, have been fully vaccinated. They have indicated that they may begin vaccinating tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers who routinely come to work inside Israel and that they may transfer more vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, but no details have been made available.
Human rights advocates have argued that Israel should be vaccinating the Palestinian population in parallel with its own citizens. They cite the Fourth Geneva Convention, under which occupying powers are obligated to ensure the public health of people living under occupation as far as possible. An annex of the Oslo Accords also calls for cooperation to combat epidemics.
The dispute has been aggravated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent foray into vaccine diplomacy, with pledges to send thousands of spare doses to allies from Hungary to Guatemala. That effort has been put on hold as Israel’s attorney general examines whether the decision-making went through proper channels.
So far, the Palestinians have received 10,000 doses from Russia of its Sputnik V vaccine, 2,000 of which were transferred from the West Bank to Gaza. Last weekend, another shipment of 20,000 Russian doses donated by the United Arab Emirates entered Gaza across the Egyptian border.
Palestinian officials expect to receive 37,440 Pfizer doses and hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca doses through the global-sharing initiative Covax sometime in March. Additional supplies of AstraZeneca vaccine are expected as well.