Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected criticism that the country’s vaccination rollout has excluded Palestinian citizens of Israel.
In an interview with Fox News, Netanyahu slammed a joke last month by Saturday Night Live‘s star Micheal Che that Israel had only vaccinated the Jewish half of its population.
“Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half,” Che said during a segment of the American comedy show in February.
Responding to the claims, Netanyahu said, “That’s outrageous. In fact, I brought vaccines and went especially to the Arab communities, the Arab citizens of Israel, and vaccinated as many as we can.
“I must’ve gone to half a dozen Arab communities already, talked with the mayors there, brought the leaders, brought the doctors there, Arab doctors, this is just so outrageous.”
Netanyahu has pinned his re-election hopes on the success of his campaign to vaccinate Israel’s adult population. At the same time, he has offered rewards to those who vaccinate and punishments to those who do not.
Israel has rolled out the world’s fastest vaccination campaign, administering at least one dose to more than half its 9.3 million people and the required two doses to about one-third in less than two months.
The disparities between Israel’s successful vaccination push with its own population and the lack of vaccines for Palestinians in the occupied territories have drawn criticism from UN officials and rights groups and have cast a light on the inequities between rich and poor countries getting access to vaccines.
Critics contend that Israel is responsible for vaccinating the Palestinians, while Israel has argued that under interim peace agreements it is not responsible to do so. Israel’s vaccination campaign, however, has included its own Palestinian population.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has struggled to secure vaccines for his people.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also condemned Israel’s plan to send coronavirus vaccines to far-away countries while ignoring the five-million-strong Palestinian population living kilometres away under its military occupation as an “immoral measure”.