Analysis: Bernie Sanders castigates Israel about vaccinating Palestinians

More study needed, Bernie, please, before you again presume to lecture or hector on this matter. Please, go ahead and burn the midnight oil.

By Hugh Fitzgerald, FrontPage Mag

The report on ill-tempered Bernie is here: “Sanders slams Israel for not sending COVID vaccines to Palestinians,” by Sarah Chemla, Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2021:

US Sen. Bernie Sanders has criticized the Israeli government for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before sending them to Palestinians.

Sanders was responding to a New York Times tweet stating that “Israel’s vaccine donations to faraway countries have angered Palestinians who say Israel is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in the occupied territories, where vaccines are scarce.

But why are vaccines “scarce” for the Palestinians? Isn’t it because they did no planning, even many months into the pandemic, and chose to spend their aid money on other things?

In Gaza, Hamas spends huge sums on building terror tunnels and on arms that it hides throughout civilian areas. The terror group has also been the victim of colossal corruption; just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have amassed fortunes of at least $2.5 billion apiece.

In the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, has a nest egg of $400 million. That’s all money that might have gone to the medical care of the Palestinians. And the PA spent $157 million last year on its Pay-For-Slay program, money which could have paid for enough vaccines to cover the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank. It chose not to.

Why doesn’t Bernie Sanders deplore the behavior of the PA? He could fulminate in the Senate: “It is unacceptable that the PA, instead of buying vaccines that would have inoculated the entire Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank, chose instead to spend its money on the Pay-For-Slay program that rewards, and incentivizes, terrorism.” Could Bernie begin to tell that obvious truth? I doubt it.

The former Democratic presidential contender claimed in a tweet that “Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control. It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.”

Israel has been vaccinating “all the people under its control” – both Arab and Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, at the same rate, with the same vaccines. That is where Israel’s responsibility ends. Bernie Sanders has apparently not read the Oslo Accords (1995), Annex III, Article 17, paragraphs 1 and 2. They provide unambiguously for the transfer of responsibility for medical care for the Palestinians, including vaccinations, from Israel to the PA. And that transfer has been in force for a quarter-century.

ARTICLE 17

Health

Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side, including the health insurance system.

The Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations. In this regard, the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population with the vaccines listed in Schedule 3.

Does Sanders understand those clauses? “Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side”? On what basis does he now claim that Israel is “responsible for the health of all the people under its control”?

And in fact, how can he claim that the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are “under its control”? The last Israeli pulled out of Gaza in 2005; its inhabitants have been under the control ever since of Hamas. In the West Bank, the PA, ruling the roost from Ramallah, controls the daily lives of Palestinians in Areas A and B. And both in those areas, and even in Area C, the Palestinian Authority has the responsibility for all medical and educational services.

As Israel began its vaccine rollout late last year, some activists and foreign media outlets criticized it for not including the Palestinians, arguing that under international law, Israel is the “occupying power” and must vaccinate them.

The Jewish state responded by pointing out that the internationally recognized Oslo Accords state that the PA is responsible for its population’s healthcare, including vaccinations.

Let’s repeat it: Israel has no obligation – none – to vaccinate the Palestinians. Those who criticize Israel for failing to do so simply want us all to ignore the Oslo Accords. Under what “international law” is Israel an “occupying power”? It is certainly not the “occupying power” in Gaza, where there is not a single Israeli. As for the West Bank, Israel cannot be accused of “occupying ” a territory that was assigned, according to the Mandate for Palestine, to the future Jewish National Home, which then became the State of Israel.

Has Bernie read the Palestine Mandate, including Article 6? Does he understand that in the phrase “close settlement by Jews on the land,” which under Article 6 is to be encouraged, the “land” in question included all the land from the Golan in the north, to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east, to the Mediterranean in the west? Does he realize that the mandates system was itself part of international law? Could it be that Bernie Sanders has never read the Mandate for Palestine? Yes, I think it could.

More study needed, Bernie, please, before you again presume to lecture or hector on this matter. Please, go ahead and burn the midnight oil.

Israel sent thousands of doses to the PA

Regardless of legal matters, the government has already sent thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines to the PA and facilitated the entry of Russian donations of their Sputnik V vaccines.

Israel had no duty to supply the Palestinians with vaccines, but nonetheless has sent 5,000 doses so that, Israel hoped, frontline Palestinian health workers could be vaccinated. There is evidence that some of those doses were used instead to inoculate Palestinian leaders, their families, and relatives.

Israel has also bought one million dollars’ worth of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia to send to Syria, so that an Israeli woman with mental problems who had strayed into Syria, would be returned.

Last week, Netanyahu said Israel and the Palestinians were “in one epidemiological range.”

We have a clear interest that we don’t want illnesses and sick people to pass through our borders from the Palestinian Authority and Gaza,” he told Army Radio.

Israel has no interest in preventing the Palestinians from being vaccinated. On the contrary: many tens of thousands of Palestinians cross into Israel for work each day; their inoculation would make them less dangerous to the Israelis among whom they work. “We have a clear interest,” Prime Minister Netanyahu insists, in making sure that the Palestinians who enter Israel are not carriers of the virus. Israel’s Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, says that once Israel has finished vaccinating its own population, it will be sending unused doses of the vaccine to the Palestinians. I don’t think Bernie Sanders is aware of that promise.

One more thing: Sanders was exercised that Israel was sending some doses of the vaccine to countries that Jerusalem wanted to thank for their pro-Israel positions. These include: Guatemala, which has its embassy in Jerusalem; Honduras, which has said it will soon be moving its embassy to Jerusalem; and the Czech Republic, which has been a steady supporter of Israel at the U.N. and has said it will add a diplomatic presence to its office in Jerusalem.

Sanders finds this unacceptable. But why? Don’t all countries reward their friends? Doesn’t the American government extend Most-Favored-Nation status to some countries and not to others? Don’t the Americans agree to sell certain advanced weapons to countries it deems friendly, and not to others? Is it wrong to do so?

Why shouldn’t Israel do what other countries routinely do? In the case at hand, that means Jerusalem has decided to reward with shipments of the coronavirus three states that have taken, or are about to take, steps that will further strengthen Israel’s position on Jerusalem. Despite the fulminations of Bernie Sanders, there is nothing wrong with that.