‘PA doesn’t care about us’: Israel steps in to vaccinate Palestinian workers

Over the next two weeks, some 120,000 who have legal work permits will receive the Moderna vaccine courtesy of the Israeli government.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s campaign to vaccinate Palestinians who come to work daily from Judea and Samaria is gaining steam after a pilot program ran successfully last week, with the first 21,000 workers starting to stream into inoculation centers set up Tuesday at various points in the country.

Thousands of factory workers from the Nablus area came to a converted hangar in the Barkan industrial zone in Samaria Tuesday in timed groups coordinated by their employers to receive the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus. They showed two IDF officers their work permits and were ushered into makeshift immunization rooms where Magen David Adom (MDA) personnel administered the injection.

In the Gush Etzion city of Efrat, another improvised clinic was set up under the joint charge of the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Health Ministry and MDA.

Efrat Regional Council head Oded Revivi said it was another lesson about “how important good neighborliness is, how good relations between settlers and Palestinians can be when we cooperate.”

Others concentrated on the practical necessity of inoculating people who come in daily contact with each other so that the illness does not spread.

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“The virus knows no geographical borders and therefore the vaccination of the Palestinian workers is a common interest for both parties,” said Col. Eyal Zevi, COGAT head of operations.

Two other centers were opened Tuesday as well, in the city of Ariel in Samaria and in Mishor Adumim, south of Jerusalem. They joined eight complexes established Monday at crossings between areas under Palestinian Authority (PA) control and Israel, as well as one in the Atarot industrial zone just outside the capital. The plan is to inoculate over the next two weeks 120,000 Palestinians who work for the most part in Israeli agriculture, construction and industry.

Moderna’s second dose is administered a month after the first, in contrast to the Pfizer vaccine that five million Israelis have been given so far, whose second jab is given three weeks later.

Several Palestinians who spoke to the press expressed their gratitude for Israel’s move and spoke dismissively of the Palestinian Authority’s efforts on their behalf.

Mustafa, from the village of Jama’in, works in a Barkan factory. He told Ynet, “These vaccines will save us. We live together and Israel does the right thing. We cannot be ignored. The Palestinian Authority (PA) does not care about the residents and has not obtained vaccines, but we work in Israel, which is also responsible for us.”

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Some said they wanted Israel to do even more, even though under the Oslo Accords, the health of its people is the responsibility of the PA.

“We’ve asked our managers for our families to be vaccinated as well, not just those who have permits,” said a young worker named Ias. “Corona doesn’t distinguish between us, it infects everyone.”

Mustafa went even further, saying that “all Palestinians” should be inoculated. “Israel must do this. We are human beings,” he said.

Israel sent 2,000 doses to the PA last month to inoculate medical workers, with another 3,000 promised. Altogether, the PA has received some 10,000 vaccines, but criticism has been aired over its prioritization system. In one talked-about example, its national soccer team was inoculated even though so many of its elderly have not been given the vaccine.