CNN’s Zakaria Misstates Israel’s COVID Vaccination Obligation to Palestinians

Fareed Zakaria’s weekly Sunday CNN program, grandiosely named “Global Public Square” (GPS) disparaged both Israel and the Palestinians (Jan. 24, 2021). In a segment about the COVID-19 vaccinating experience of various countries, Zakaria briefly describes Israel’s success and then he adds a caveat.

Zakaria explaining the “disagreement wrapped up in that success story”

Zakaria said, “There is a disagreement wrapped up in that success story over whether Israel also has a duty to vaccinate the 4.6 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. It has not done so. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, citing different bits of international paperwork, point to the other as responsible.”

While critics may argue that Israel has a moral obligation to at least help COVID-19 vaccinate the Palestinians, the claim or implication that Israel has a legal responsibility is false.

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein has pointed out that the government’s obligation first and foremost is to its citizens, but that it would be in Israel’s best interests to make sure that Palestinians got the vaccine. On BBC’s Andrew Marr Show (Jan. 24, 2021), responding to Marr’s assertion that Israel has a “legal obligation to make sure the Palestinian people under occupation have a swift and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” Edelstein stated,  “As far as this is concerned, I think it is the Israeli obligation to first and foremost to its citizens. They pay taxes for that, don’t they? Having said that — it is in our interest, not our legal obligation, but it is in our interests to make sure the Palestinians get the vaccine so that they will not have COVID-19 spreading.”

Whatever Zakaria means by “international paperwork,” the applicable international law is the Oslo Accords agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Accords puts health care, including vaccinations, in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Article 17 of the Oslo II agreement states:

1. Powers and responsibilities in the sphere of Health in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be transferred to the Palestinian side, including the health insurance system.

2. The Palestinian side shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians and shall improve them according to internationally accepted standards in the field, taking into account WHO recommendations. In this regard, the Palestinian side shall continue the vaccination of the population with the vaccines listed in Schedule 3.

Moreover, Palestinian leaders in the West Bank haven’t publicly asked Israel to supply COVID vaccine to them. This reluctance indicates that Palestinian politics has trumped Palestinian health. It may be too bitter a pill to swallow to be seen as dependent upon a people that the Palestinian leadership incessantly demonizes.

As to the Gaza Palestinians, Zakaria ignores the fact that the leadership in Gaza considers itself to be at war with Israel and acts accordingly, aiming to destroy the Jewish state.

It would be surprising if Zakaria ever reported on any related positive situation — such as one cited by the United Nations involving cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli authorities: 

Since the start of the crisis, the Palestinian and Israel authorities have maintained a close, unprecedented cooperation on efforts aimed at containing the [Covid] epidemic. Representatives from both ministries of health, as well as from Israel’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have been meeting on a regular basis to agree on matters of mutual concern, such the understandings concerning Palestinian workers employed in Israel.

Zakaria’s unreliable Israel reports are an old story. A prime example of this his enabling of notorious Palestinian propagandist Hanan Ashrawi. Likewise, CNN has a dismal record regarding the network’s coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Don’t CNN viewers deserve more informative, less biased coverage about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship than what is provided by CNN and Fareed Zakaria?