Moroccan media fell for an apparent political stunt by Israel’s prime minister which has run into significant opposition and outrage in Israel.
Rabat – Israel’s small-scale vaccine donation plans are suspended pending a verdict by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. The initiative was the brainchild of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who appeared to copy China’s vaccine diplomacy to garner goodwill by supplying countries in need.
Netanyahu’s plan, however, ran into a significant problem; Israel does not produce any vaccines. The vaccines Israel has used in its national campaign come from abroad, and Netanyahu was merely planning to distribute the country’s small surplus after a rapid roll-out of its campaign.
As small-scale as Netanyahu’s gesture was, the stunt met fierce criticism in Israel. Defense Minister Benny Gantz called to suspend the initiative, describing it as an example of unilateral decision-making by Netanyahu.
“This is not the first time that significant security and diplomatic decisions are made behind the back of the relevant officials,” Gantz stated, adding that these acts cause “possible harm to the security of the state, foreign relations and rule of law.”
Israel’s successful rollout of its national vaccination campaign has led to many requests for assistance from other countries, according to a statement by Netanyahu’s office. Yet, those opposing Netanyahu’s initiative are accusing him of using the vaccines as a tool for diplomacy.
Israel has made several small donations to key supporters of its international diplomacy. Honduras and Guatemala received 5,000 doses each, which received a warm welcome amid an ugly global war over vaccines.
Rich countries, which account for 16% of the global population, are buying up over 70% of all vaccines produced in 2021.
Israel was one of those rich countries, which was able to strike deals and rapidly purchase enough doses for its own population.
Netanyahu’s audacity to play “vaccine savior” to Israel’s friends with its left-over vaccines stands in stark contrast with the dire need for global solidarity.
So far, only China has stepped in to make a concerted effort to provide vaccines for the world’s less powerful countries. Its industrial might is planning to produce 4 billion vaccines this year to fulfill 40% of global demand.
In the midst of a global struggle over vaccines dominated by greed and self-interest, many countries welcomed Israel’s small gesture. The President of Honduras, Juan Orlando thanked Israel for its 5,000 doses, announcing the start of what looks to be a very short vaccination drive.
Even Moroccan media fell for Netanyahu’s diplomatic maneuver, with newspapers inaccurately writing that “Morocco is one of 18 countries to receive Israeli vaccines.”
In the short-term it appears Netanyahu’s political trick had its intended effect. In the long term it could instead bring a spotlight on Israel’s role in rapidly buying up much-needed vaccines before any of its less wealthy allies could.