JERUSALEM (AP) —
Israel’s defense minister on Thursday called for an immediate halt in plans to ship surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of allied nations, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of acting without oversight or transparency.
In a letter to the prime minister, Benny Gantz said the decision to share vaccines was taken without “discussions in the relevant forums.” He also questioned Netanyahu’s claims that Israel has surplus vaccines to give away.
“We are talking about a significant diplomatic and security decision, and in accordance with that, it needs to be approved according to procedures established by law,” Gantz said.
Gantz demanded the matter be taken up by the country’s Security Cabinet.
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office.
Gantz and Netanyahu are fierce rivals who battled to stalemates in three consecutive elections before agreeing last year to form an emergency government. Their power-sharing arrangement quickly unraveled, and the country is heading to its fourth election in two years next month.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced that he had personally decided to send surplus vaccines to a series of diplomatic allies.
He did not identify the countries, but a list obtained by an Israeli TV station suggested a number of them have supported Israel’s claim to the contested city of Jerusalem as its capital. Others have close or budding relations with Israel.
The new policy drew renewed criticism of Israel’s reluctance to share significant quantities of its vast stockpile of vaccines with the Palestinians.
“As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. “It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting.”
They also illustrated how at a time of global shortages, the vaccine has become an asset that can be used for diplomatic gain.