- BBC World News
The arrival of the first coronavirus vaccines to Honduras and Guatemala is scheduled for this Thursday from a relatively unexpected destination: Israel.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández confirmed on Twitter an Israeli donation of 5,000 doses to the Central American country, which will use them for the immunization of health personnel.
And so did the government of Guatemala, which in recent days has been especially critical of the WHO’s global distribution mechanism for covid-19 vaccines, Covax.
Both Central American nations they expect to receive the vast majority of their vaccines through this mechanism, which, however, has prioritized other countries.
And the unexpected donation from Israel – a country that has already managed to immunize approximately eight out of 10 inhabitants – allowed their governments to finally give good news, which seems to be one of the goals of the gift.
“Israel is preparing to give away tens of thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines to at least 15 countries in reward for your diplomatic support“The Times of Israel newspaper reported Wednesday.
Shortly after, the public broadcaster Kan – which had released the news a day earlier – increased the number of countries to 19, in addition to including the Palestinian territories.
“The list of countries has not yet been finalized, but will include several countries that have pledged to move their embassies to Jerusalem and several African states that recently renewed their diplomatic relations with Israel, “the broadcaster added.
BBC Mundo contacted the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm the version, without having obtained a response at the time of publication of this article.
On Tuesday, however, the Prime Minister’s office released a statement stating that earlier the numerous support requests, and given that the success of the local vaccination campaign had allowed the accumulation of “a limited quantity of unused doses”, it had been decided to assist “the medical teams of the Palestinian Authority and several of the countries that had contacted Israel with a symbolic number of vaccines“.
The criteria for the selection of these countries were not specified.
But the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, did not hesitate to present the Israeli donation as an example of “the historical ties of friendship that unite our peoples. “
Guatemala was, in fact, the second country in the world to officially recognize the Jewish State, in 1948, and, more recently, also the second to move its embassy to Jerusalem, in May 2018.
And it didn’t take long for Honduras to commit to move your diplomatic headquarters to the city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the possible capital of an eventual independent state.
The two countries were also the only ones in all of Latin America that voted against a December 2017 United Nations resolution that condemned the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
And that would explain why they are the only Latin Americans mentioned by the Israeli media among the possible recipients of the vaccine donation, a list that would also include the Czech Republic, Hungary, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, Guinea and Mauritania, among others.
According to the Kan station, each country would receive between 1,000 and 5,000 doses of vaccines.
“The exact number of vaccines to be distributed internationally and in the West Bank has not been provided. The vaccines given to the Palestinian Authority will be used to vaccinate to medical staff“, explained the Haaretz newspaper.
The Israeli decision, however, has not been without controversy.
Both the Minister of Health and the person in charge of vaccination against the coronavirus said they had not been consulted about the decision, which appears to have been taken by the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
And his rival in the past elections, and current Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, accused him of acting as if he were leading a monarchy, and not a democratic state.
“The fact that Netanyahu is trafficking in the vaccines of Israeli citizens, which were paid for with their tax money, without any accountability, shows that thinks he’s running a monarchy“he wrote on Twitter.
“Such a process requires discussion and approval. Only an urgent security, diplomatic or medical need could justify such a process and Netanyahu must present this to the public, or at least have it approved by the relevant forums,” Gantz added.
Others, for their part, have insisted that before doing vaccine diplomacy, Israel should assume your responsibilities in the occupied territories.
“While shipping vaccines to other countries is a welcome move, Israel has not kept its promise to the Palestinians,” Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg wrote in a letter to Netanayhu.
“Epidemiologically, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are considered a single bloc, and Israel, as the controlling force of the Palestinians and their destiny, has an obligation to comply by sending vaccines to the Palestinian Authority. Giving them vaccines is not an act of goodwill, more good an obligation of the State of Israel“he added.
And the same was insisted by US Senator Bernie Sanders.
“It is outrageous that Netanyahu uses the leftover vaccines to reward your foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting, “Sanders said.
In its editorial on Monday, for its part, the Haaretz newspaper contrasted the measure with the recent decision to suspend the vaccination of undocumented migrants living in Israel.
“If Israel has enough vaccines to send thousands of doses to Guatemala, Honduras and the Czech Republic, it can continue to vaccinate people without legal status within its own borders,” the editorial read, titled “The poor of Guatemala matter more”.
But Israel’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon justified the donations as a foreign policy necessity.
“It is something normal. Since the world is world, countries use their resources to make friends and to strengthen friendships and alliances with other countries, “he told Kan radio.
“And the picture of Israel’s friendships is pretty clear,” he added.
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