Israel freezes vaccine deliveries to other countries, legalities questioned

Government planned to send tens of thousands of doses bought by Israel to other countries in return for diplomatic considerations.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel has stopped shipments of coronavirus vaccines to other countries after Defense Minister Benny Gantz slammed the distribution as having been decided arbitrarily without the required legal process, Ynet reported Thursday,

In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was copied to the attorney general, Gantz demanded a stop to the initiative announced by Netanyahu’s office, saying the prime minister couldn’t give away vaccines Israel had purchased without going through the proper legal channels.

“While supplying vaccines to medical personnel in the Palestinian Authority came following due process and in light of an evident medical imperative for Israel, supplying vaccines to other countries was never broached in relevant forums,” Gantz wrote, adding it wasn’t the first time such decisions were “made behind the backs of the relevant bodies, while possibly damaging our national security, our foreign relations, and the rule of law.”

Netanyahu announced Wednesday that Israel would send up to 50,000 “unused” doses of coronavirus vaccines to other countries as a gesture of goodwill. However, only after Netanyahu’s announcement did officials in his office approach Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to confirm the vaccines – purchased for Israeli citizens – could indeed be sent to other countries.

Honduras announced Thursday that it received vaccines from Israel, and the Czech Republic said Wednesday that it got 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, Ynet reported.

The Prime Minister’s Office halted the plan after Mandelblit sent a letter seeking clarification about the “vaccine diplomacy” initiative to send 50,000 doses to 20 countries.

Netanyahu said that Israelis would be denied “not a single vaccine,” as only a “symbolic” amount would be sent to 20 countries, including Cyprus, Honduras, Hungary, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Maldives, Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Uganda and Guinea.

In January, Israel gave 5,000 doses of the vaccine to the Palestinian Authority for use on its healthcare workers. In a separate delivery, the PA received 10,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine that it purchased. They were delivered via Israel, 2,000 of which were then sent to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip ostensibly for use by healthcare workers there, but with no stipulation that some of them would not be diverted to the leadership of the Hamas terror group.