Israel and PA Coronavirus Cooperation

Nearly two weeks ago it was announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had set up a joint operations room to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

An Israeli Defence Ministry official confirmed the initiative, saying:

“Our shared borders and relations do not leave room for hesitation to take severe
measures and cooperate on the highest levels to prevent the spread of the virus.”

Palestinians living in the Bethlehem area were already aware of this co-operation, because it had been active since the first coronavirus cases were discovered in Beit Jala earlier in the month.

Palestinian workers in a sanitiser factoryPalestinian workers in a sanitiser factory (photo: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)

That same week, one reporter observed an extraordinary scene when around 30,000 Palestinians left the West Bank carrying suitcases, blankets and sleeping bags, having been given permits to stay in Israel overnight to work there on the condition that they stay for at least two months.

This arrangement was reached to prevent the virus from spreading at border crossings. They will not be allowed to cross back into Palestinian territories during that time. The Union of Contractors in Israel and the Farmers` Federation of Israel promised to provide appropriate accommodation. 

Then on Sunday 22nd March, Israeli media reported that Israeli authorities have decided to deliver a fund equivalent to 30 million US Dollars to the PA. That fund is a part of tax money collected through Israeli-controlled commercial crossings.

Israel’s Finance Minister is reported to have approved the transfer after hearing security assessments that the PA could face a serious financial crisis due to the impact of the coronavirus.

A 60-year-old woman from the village of Bidu was reported to be the first Palestinian victim of the coronavirus on 26th March.

But today, Monday 30th March, some PA officials continue to criticise Israel, even while acknowledging the co-ordinated response to the virus.

So it is with some relief that Israelis have noted unusual praise from the United Nations about its “excellent” co-operation with the PA in fighting the coronavirus.

Alon Bar, deputy director-general for the UN and international organizations at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said yesterday:

“We hold discussions and consultations every day with the relevant UN officials.
We hear from them praise for the State of Israel for the coordination and
good cooperation in dealing with the coronavirus crisis, which in our view is
essential and necessary for an effective response to the spread of the virus.”