Israel paying hundreds of thousands to produce COVID-19 doses to Syria | Politics Information
The Palestinians are likely to rub against Israel helping millions of Syrians while they continue to wait for their own supply of the Russian Sputnik vaccine.
Israeli media reports on Russia-negotiated Syrian prisoner exchange, which included the repatriation of an Israeli woman who crossed the Golan border into Syria in return for two Syrian shepherds who strayed into Israel-held territory, another unprecedented Israeli “concession” .
However, the type of concession could not be published because the Israeli military censorship forbade it.
A well-informed Israeli source told Al Jazeera that, in order to seal the deal, Russia proposed Israel pay millions of dollars for several million doses of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to be given to millions of Syrians.
“Netanyahu and [Foreign Minister Benny] Gantz, knowing the possible election damage for both of them, ordered military censors to ban the publication that Israel agreed to fund the purchase of Russian Sputnik V vaccine doses for millions of Syrian citizens. The cabinet has not been given the exact price, but it is millions of dollars, “said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A few days ago, Israeli reports said the security cabinet had met to consider the release of prisoners on both sides. However, it was unclear why the replacement of an ultra-Orthodox Israeli and two shepherds would require the approval of such senior officials. It is now clear, given the source’s comments, that the vaccine proposal was the element that required such consideration.
Israel has spoken out against President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the past 10 years, offering military support to the rebels of the anti-government al-Nusra Front and carrying out hundreds of air strikes on Syrian and Iranian targets in the country. It also occupied the Golan, the territory it captured from Syria in the 1973 war.
If Israel offers him a large amount of COVID vaccines now, not only will it strengthen a government that has long sought to undermine Israel, but it also risks putting the average Israelis, who do not tend to sympathize with frontline states, with to which they remain at war, trigger hostilities. For example, it is illegal for any Israeli citizen to visit Syria. Several people were arrested for this.
For these reasons, Netanyahu and Gantz preferred to keep this aspect of the deal a secret so as not to weaken their political standing in the March elections, which will be the fourth in the last two years.
The Israeli freed by the Syrians has been described as having grown up in an ultra-Orthodox family. She had given up the tradition, learned Arabic, and then tried unsuccessfully to get to Gaza. Her next attempt was to cross the Golan line, which she had done two weeks ago. The villagers met her, suspected her of being a spy, and reported her to the authorities who arrested her.
Another irony of the deal to deliver Russia’s COVID vaccine to Syria is that, with a few exceptions, Israel has refused to offer cans to the four million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. There have been 5,000 for health workers in the West Bank and 1,000 for similar workers in Gaza. However, it did so under international pressure that arose when Israel refused to accept responsibility for helping the Palestinians.
Israel is also vaccinating African refugees and Palestinians with Israeli work permits, presumably because authorities fear they could otherwise infect Israeli citizens they come into contact with.
The Palestinians are likely to chaf at Israel helping millions of Syrians while they continue to wait for their own supply of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine.
The vaccination deal also benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin, who can announce his own country’s vaccine donation to protect millions of Syrians. Netanyahu, in turn, can turn to the electorate and boast of having freed an Israeli prisoner from enemy hands. Finally, Syrian President al-Assad can tell his people that this medical aid was negotiated by him and his Russian ally on their behalf.
The entire agreement provides an example of the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the use of humanitarian medical aid to advance national political interests. It also highlights the inequality in the distribution of the vaccine to the world’s non-have, who have no political power, patronage, or financial resources to ensure the protection of their people.