Vaccinating Palestinian Workers

3 March 2021

Following major pressure from NIF grantees, as COVID-19 spread in the occupied territories reaches a new peak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz have approved the request from the Palestinian Authority to vaccinate Palestinians holding permits to work in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a total of 120,000 Palestinians – only 2.5 percent of the Palestinian population residing in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the first stage, 50,000 Palestinian workers will each receive two Moderna vaccine doses. If the vaccination program is successful, the other 70,000 Palestinian workers will receive vaccinations. It has not yet been decided whether a vaccination will be a precondition for working in Israel.

So far, only a few thousand doses of the vaccine have been transferred from Israel to Palestinian health authorities.

The vaccine drive will be conducted by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the branch of the Ministry of Defense responsible for civilian matters in the Occupied Territory together with IDF Central Command, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Defense Crossing points Authority. The rollout will begin with vaccination centers being set up at checkpoints in the West Bank where Palestinian workers enter Israel. Israeli medical staff will administer vaccinations.

Israeli human and civil rights organizations including NIF grantees are focusing pressure on the government to fulfill its role as an occupying power and provide vaccines for all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, not only those who work in Israel. Under international law, Israel is required to ensure the public health and hygiene of the occupied population.

NIF grantees have also urged the government to ensure equitable access to the vaccine for people living in Israel without legal status as well incarcerated people. See: COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution in Israel: Advocating for Equality.

Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir