Yifat Shasha-Biton

“Israel is not turning its back on the residents of the Authority and continues to provide them with medical treatment in life-saving cases,” commented Israeli lawmaker Yifat Shasha-Biton.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Israel is doing more to help Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic than the PA itself is, Member of Knesset (MK) Yifat Shasha-Biton stated during a session on providing medical care to residents of the PA.

The Knesset’s Special Committee on the Novel Coronavirus convened on Tuesday to discuss solutions for PA residents in need of treatment in Israeli hospitals who are unable to enter the country due to the pandemic.

Committee Chairwoman Shasha-Biton said that “in the complicated reality we live in, we have a moral duty, as human beings, to save lives. Therefore, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority chose the path of ceasing to cooperate with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Israel is not turning its back on the residents of the Authority and continues to provide them with medical treatment in life-saving cases.”

The Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC), the body in charge of coordination civil affairs with Israel on behalf of the PA, has suspended all coordination with Israel following the PA’s declaration in April that it was freezing coordination with Israel in response to its plan to declare sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, as stipulated by the US-formulated Deal of the Century peace plan.

Shasha-Biton further noted that Israel is helping the PA prevent the spread of the coronavirus, “and will continue to make every effort to assist in humanitarian cases, but the responsibility cannot be lifted from the Palestinian Authority, which stopped the coordination and thus harmed its own residents.”

Omar Yaghi, an eight-month-old infant from the Gaza Strip with a cardiac condition, died last month following a one-month postponement of his scheduled operation at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer in Tel Aviv.

Omar was supposed to leave Gaza for an operation in Sheba on May 24. However, the plan fell through due to the PA’s declaration that it was ceasing coordination with Israel. The PCAC refused to accept Omar’s family’s request for a travel permit and submit it to the IDF’s District Coordination Office (DCO) at the Erez Crossing.

The family then contacted Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI). The NGO resubmitted their application on Omar’s behalf – this time, directly to Israel without passing through the PA.

The new application was accepted, and the surgery was rescheduled to June 21. However, Omar died three days before the operation that could have saved his life.

MK Sondos Saleh, of the Arab-majority Joint List, demanded during the session that Israel “take the coordination upon itself – as the one responsible for the economic, health and civil situation.”

Major Inbal Maman, head of the Civil Coordination Department at COGAT, said thousands of requests by PA Arabs to receive medical treatment in Israel have been approved during the corona crisis, despite the termination of coordination on the PA’s side.

Ran Goldstein, of PHRI, placed the full onus on Israel, and in response, Shasha-Biton said “it’s funny that, when it’s convenient for you, the State of Israel should bear the responsibility.”

The IDF has transferred tens of tons of medical supplies through the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of COVID-19 test kits have been transferred to Gaza through COGAT’s Coordination and Liaison Unit and to Judea and Samaria through the Civil Administration, as well as thousands of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for medical staff and disinfectant material.

COGAT has coordinated training sessions for many medical professions from the PA given by Israelis.