Worry is looming through the halls of decision-makers in Israel concerning the ability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to cope with the Corona crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There is currently a severe shortage of medical supplies and ventilators while the number of those infected is presumed to be higher than is actually reported. Against this background, Israel has called upon the international community to adopt the UN’s 90-day program for aiding the Palestinians in their fight against the virus.
On March 31st, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a briefing for a group of foreign ambassadors serving in Israel, which provided details on the assistance that is being provided to the Palestinians in managing the Coronavirus.
A number of foreign representatives attended to deliver presentations, including Deputy Director of the Economy Division at the Foreign Ministry, Yael Ravia-Zadok; Deputy Director of International Organizations, Alon Bar; Representative of COGAT, Colonel Sharon Bitton; United Nations Emissary, Nikolai Mladanov; United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Jamie McGoldrick; and Norwegian Ambassador to Israel, Jon Hansen Bauer, as a representative of the contributing countries.
Upon opening up the briefing, Ravia-Zadok stated that the Coronavirus does not differentiate between people and is not limited by borders. Interestingly, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have established close collaboration on the matter, hoping to minimize the spread of the virus as much as possible. She further noted the phone call made between President Rivlin and president of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas wherein the need for cooperation was agreed upon by both parties. Israel is assisting the PA by providing necessary equipment for managing the crisis, in addition to training workshops and cooperation with Palestinian medical teams. Moreover, Israel is allowing equipment needed for managing the virus to enter Gaza on a daily basis.
Ravia-Zadok called upon the international community to express its support for the UN’s 90-day program, and to direct international aid through the program’s established fund, in order that the PA and the Gaza Strip be assisted in equipping themselves to manage the virus in the territories. She further added that it is the responsibility of the PA to manage the COVID-19 crisis in both Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and that the Palestinians’ needs in this matter are greater than what the State of Israel is able to provide.
Mladanov and McGoldrick presented the UN’s humanitarian aid efforts and requested that the international community join the 90-day program.
UN Appreciation of Israeli Efforts
It should be noted that more recently, the Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in managing the Coronavirus was recognized in UN reports and by the Secretary General. Throughout the briefing, the foreign ambassadors and additional participants expressed their appreciation of Israel’s efforts and of the collaboration, in order to emphasize the importance of jointly managing this global pandemic.
Following a discussion that was conducted by the UN via video concerning the Middle East, the UN Security Council (UNSC) released an official statement expressing that it, “is encouraged to see the continued cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians in coping with this mutual challenge.” The UNSC members called upon both parties to increase its joint efforts to minimize the spread of the virus.
Israel’s UN representative, Danny Danon stated that, “the Security Council’s statement demonstrated the importance of the policy that Israel is heading in the region that help to stop the spread of Coronavirus.” Israel has expressed its intention to expedite a money transfer to the Palestinians in order to strengthen their ability to manage the economic crisis that has developed as a result of the spread of COVID-19.