Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) said he was “heartened” to learn that Israel is sending 5,000 coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian areas.
Israel had been saying that it was not obligated under law or prior agreements to supply Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule with the vaccine, but a number of Democrats, including Bowman, were critical nonetheless.
On Tuesday, Bowman posted a letter on Twitter to Israel’s Acting Consul General in New York, Israel Nitzan, asking for a meeting to discuss the issue and praising the decision to distribute the doses.
“The entire population in the West Bank and Gaza must also be covered,” writes the Bronx/Westchester lawmaker, who is African American. “I know the feeling of being neglected in my government and society, of feeling like a second class citizen or not a citizen at all in my own home.”
The Consulate confirmed to the Jewish Week that a meeting with Bowman will take place.
“Thank you @RepBowman for your sincere letter,” Nitzan tweeted back Tuesday. “I believe the situation is more complex &I see it differently, but I appreciate the opportunity for an open conversation about your concerns. I look forward to a meaningful relationship based on mutual respect.”
In an op-ed published in The Algemeiner on Monday, Nitzan reiterated that Israel “has no specific responsibility for the Palestinians’ public health,” but that it had “gone beyond its duty to assist the PA healthcare system by enabling the arrival of international assistance since the outbreak of the pandemic, and supplying thousands of vaccines as humanitarian aid to the PA.” He was referring to doses delivered earlier this month, before Monday’s announcement.
He added: “Anyone with access to the above well-documented facts who continues to voice these outrageous slurs against Israel is not coming from a position of concern to the well-being of the Palestinian people. Rather, their purpose is to defame and delegitimize Israel.
“Any responsible leader who cares about the well-being of the Palestinians should look into the full scope of the situation and not fall into the same old cynical propaganda,” wrote Nitzan.
The P.A. leadership has sent mixed signals about vaccines, saying it would prefer to get the doses from other sources, but more recently asked for 10,000 doses for its frontline health care workers.
“In accordance with the recommendation of the Defense Minister and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the political echelon approved the transfer of 5,000 vaccine doses to medical teams in the Palestinian Authority,” The Times of Israel quoted Israeli military officials as saying Monday.
A number of Democrats had faulted Israel for not doing enough to get vaccines to the Palestinians. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Monday that he had raised the issue with the Biden administration and was “glad to see” Israel deliver the doses.