The UN Secretary-General has praised Israel and the Palestinian Authority for working together to battle the coronavirus outbreak across the territories they control.
António Guterres singled out the work between the two during a press conference last week announcing the UN’s humanitarian response plan. He said he saw “different parties to a conflict cooperating in order to respond to this dramatic situation. To give an example, in fighting Covid-19, the Palestinian Authority and Israel have been able to work together, even if we know the extreme division that exists politically between the two.”
Mr Guterres’s remarks were reinforced by Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East, who said it was “a major factor in the [virus] containment achieved so far”.
A readout of Mr Mladenov’s phone call with the Middle East Quartet continued: “Israel has also facilitated the entry of critical supplies and equipment into Gaza since the beginning of the crisis. This is in addition to Israel’s cooperation to allow for the movement and access of personnel involved in the COVID-19 response to and from both the West Bank and Gaza.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed during a phone call last week on the need to coordinate efforts and Ibrahim Milhem, the Palestinian Authority government spokesman, has highlighted cooperation with Israel in his daily press briefings.
But below the highest levels of government, a degree of suspicion remains. The Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam said on Tuesday that an Israeli military order to close the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron had led to claims they intended to “turn it into a Jewish worship area while taking advantage of the coronavirus closures.”
On Wednesday Palestinian officials said there were 134 cases of coronavirus in the West Bank. 5,591 people have so far tested positive in Israel.
v LETTERS P47