Israel is often in the spotlight. From the special relationship to the ongoing question of the two-state solution. The pandemic has and has not changed the status quo.
As of the 3rd of January 2021, 1 million Israelis had the first shot of a two-phase BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. As of this today, on the 10th of February, over 50% of the population; 3.5 million; had been given the first shot, or fully vaccinated.
Eran Segal from the Weizmann Institute of Science reported “among the first fully-vaccinated group there was a 53% reduction in new cases, a 39% decline in hospitalizations and a 31% drop in severe illnesses from mid-January until February the 6th.” As shown in the infographic it creates a stark picture how effective Israel’s roll out has been.
The quasi privatisation of the vaccine roll out by allowing Pfizer/BioNTech to mine the data generated from trials, has allowed Israel to become a leading light in the vaccination process. An open environment to the private sector and privatisation of data, is a model many Western nations have not tried, maybe because Heads of States calculated a mass of civilians would this this is selling their privacy to the highest bidder.
With this success for the Israeli government, it is important to acknowledge the politics of the Israeli border have not disappeared. The pandemic has put the two-state solution; among other severely important issues for the region; into the shadows, but as the vaccination programme enters the final stretch, pre-pandemic issues will become centre stage again. One of the challenges the region faces is the relationship with Hezbollah. Since the eruption of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah’s role in the region took a new stance as Sulome Anderson reported in 2017 for NBC:
“The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has been coy about the extent of its coordination with Hezbollah. The army receives military aid from the United States, which considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. But since the operation against ISIS on Lebanon’s northern border was carried out with simultaneous Hezbollah and Syrian army offensives against the same foe in Syria, the LAF’s cooperation with Hezbollah was no secret.”Sept. 17, 2017, 3:28 AM BST / Updated Sept. 17, 2017, 3:28 AM BST
By Sulome Anderson
A concoction of juxtapositions is sure to come back into mainstream media. The United States under President Trump rekindled the relationship with Israel, provoking the region, but concretely placing a stance in favour of Israel. However, with funds reportedly going through a proxy – the LAF – to fight the Assad regime, whoever becomes the democratically elected leader of Israel moving forwards, one could bet they will stress a hard stop to this funding as it is no secret Israel’s relationship with Hezbollah is shaky at best, and on a war footing at worst.
Secondly the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the time sparked a new diplomatic & regional crisis between the USA, Palestine and Israel. With the pandemic racing through the world, and the USA focused on vaccine rollout, the Middle East is not centre stage in any official policy, but as vaccine take up improves, President Biden will no doubt enter back into the conversation to stabilise and seek a solution to the Israel Palestine conflict; solutions which may well revoke the recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli to seek a diplomatic consensus for calm and regional stability.
The pandemic will only last so long, and with the vaccine roll out continuing it’s strong momentum, a diplomatic vaccine to help regional stability may also need to be developed.
The Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/0b2760a6-a571-4f49-bec3-0b138e6ce9b7