House Democrats call for Blinken to pressure Israel to vaccinate Palestinians
House Democrats on Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Biden administration to do more to pressure the Israeli government on distributing vaccines to Palestinians.
Israel has led one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, with nearly half of its population fully vaccinated and eligibility extended to noncitizens, including Palestinian workers traveling from the West Bank.
But the Israeli government has come under scrutiny for not rolling out a full-fledged vaccination campaign for Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, and Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), led 17 colleagues in a letter to the secretary calling for the State Department “to take additional action to ensure that the Israeli government provide COVID-19 vaccines and facilitate vaccination programs for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.”
“We understand that you have asked Israel to facilitate the transfer of vaccines to the West Bank and Gaza and we welcome and appreciate your intervention. We believe you must continue to push the Israeli government to take action until there is a comprehensive vaccination program in place for Palestinians living under Israeli rule,” the lawmakers wrote.
State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said she had not seen the letter from House Democrats and was unable to comment, when asked by The Hill during a briefing with reporters Monday.
United Nations human rights experts and international groups have said Israel is obligated to provide vaccinations to Palestinians, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention to maintain health services in an occupied territory.
Yet the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility to vaccinate its population under the terms of the Oslo Accords, the 1993 agreement that established the Palestinian governing body.
The Israeli government has earmarked at least 5,000 vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank, mostly health workers, although only 2,000 shots have reportedly been delivered.
The Palestinian Authority is aiming to secure 20 percent of its needed vaccines from COVAX, the global initiative for equitable vaccine distribution, according to a report published last month from the World Bank.
While the Palestinian Ministry of Health plans to purchase additional vaccines to cover 60 percent of its population, it faces a $30 million shortfall to afford the number of needed vaccines. The World Bank report called for improved coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to control COVID-19 and administer the vaccine.