Israel has stopped its plan to distribute surplus coronavirus vaccines as authorities examined whether it was in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s authority to order the move, the justice ministry said Thursday.
AFP reports that on Tuesday, Netanyahu said Israel would send a “limited quantity” of vaccines to the Palestinians and several countries, including two that have announced plans to boost their diplomatic presence in Jerusalem.
But late on Thursday, the justice ministry said that following requests from the public to look into the issue, “the attorney general was examining the claim that vaccines were transferred to foreign countries without authority.”
The defence minister, Benny Gantz, had said earlier on Thursday that while the decision to give vaccines to the Palestinian Authority followed “due process” and was in Israel’s medical interests, “supplying vaccines to other countries was never broached in relevant forums.”
Gantz, who like Netanyahu is facing election in March, said the issue must be first discussed by the security cabinet, claiming the policy was pushed through without the required consultation making it “against the law.”
While many countries are struggling with vaccine supply, Israel has avoided shortages since launching inoculations in December.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu said the vaccines to be given were “symbolic numbers” of surpluses that “wouldn’t come at the expense of even one vaccine of an Israeli citizen,” and bore diplomatic weight.
Most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, pending a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
But Netanyahu, who describes Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s “undivided capital”, cheers nations that conduct diplomacy with Israel from the disputed city.