Israeli-PA Joint Fight Against Coronavirus is Expanding
By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 22 March 2020
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have engaged in direct contacts for the joint fight against the Coronavirus, despite the PA recently announcing the cessation of all coordination channels and the reduction of joint security activities with the Jewish state.
Last Wednesday, President Reuben Rivlin called PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and gave official confirmation of the contacts that have been taking place since mid-February.
Rivlin told Abbas that “the world is dealing with a crisis that does not distinguish between people or where they live,” adding that “the cooperation between us is vital to ensure the health of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
“Our ability to work together in times of crisis is also testament to our ability to work together in the future for the good of us all,” he asserted.
Various sources indicate that there is a hotline between IDF officers entrusted with civilian affairs and the Palestinian side that is used for updates on the battle against Corona. There are also other channels through which the parties ensure cooperation in the health sector.
The PA’s side is coordinating the activities through Hussein a-Sheikh, the Minister of Civil Affairs, and senior representatives from the health, agriculture, the economy, and treasury ministries.
PA medical teams at the crossings are checking the fever of workers before they enter Israel.
Israel has recently delivered 400 Corona test kits to the PA and another 500 kits to protect medical staff in the PA and in the Gaza Strip. In addition, the Civil Administration held some training courses on the discovery of Coronavirus for PA teams.
Meetings were also held in the Civil Administration between doctors and experts from both sides to try to detect the spread of the virus in the PA.
PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said a few days ago that there is political approval for the medical cooperation between Israel and the PA but stressed that the cooperation is only on the issue of Corona.
The Minister of Health also said that there is coordination between Israel, the PA and Jordan regarding the closure of the crossings into Jordan.
As part of the coordination, the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) worked to evacuate dozens of tourist groups from the PA, assisted by the IDF’s Civil Administration, which was in contact with the security forces, the police, the Foreign Ministry, the NSC and the Ministry of Health.
Coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is indirectly helping the health system in the Gaza Strip. A health system official in the Gaza Strip told TPS that 500 kits for testing Coronavirus were handed over by the World Health Organization to Gaza, with Israel’s assistance. The tests carried out in the Gaza Strip were transferred to Ramallah laboratories and Gaza is now operating its independent laboratory.
“We are assisting the authorities in Ramallah, but we have no contact with any of the Israeli officials,” he said.
Recently, PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara demanded from his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Kahlon, that Israel release the funds it has deducted from the taxes it collects on behalf of the PA so that it can meet the financial expenses involved in the fight against Corona.
The PA Prime Minister is demanding that Israel release Palestinian prisoners to ensure their safety and is also wants Israel to be held responsible for the safety of residents of the neighborhoods and villages in eastern Jerusalem after Israel prevented Fatah activists in recent days from cleansing public places.
Alongside the limited civil cooperation, PA officials continue to declare that although the Authority cannot, under the existing circumstances, continue to act against the US’ “Deal of the Century,” there is concern that Israel will exploit the global health crisis and establish unilateral facts to advance its plan.
Ramallah officials told TPS that the current coordination it is not a breakthrough or a step towards full coordination, but rather a temporary emergency status created by both sides to coordinate activity.
“This is humanitarian cooperation forced on both sides under the same danger while it is clear that any political development should be conducted under a new government.