Netanyahu proposes international corporation to battle pandemics

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed to six other heads of states that they join forces to combat the current and future pandemics in a more coordinated manner.

al-monitor Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu stands in front of a screen showing the president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, during a video conference with European leaders in order to discuss challenges and cooperation between various countries in dealing with COVID-19 at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on March 9, 2020. Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images.

Topics covered

israeli foreign relations, benjamin netanyahu, coronavirus vaccine, vaccines, coronavirus, pandemic

Jan 20, 2021

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated this week in a videoconference of heads of state hosted by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. He was joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

The Jan. 18 meeting was the sixth of its kind. The forum was founded last April by Kurz to share best practices in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, with the intention of including countries that dealt succesfully with the first coronavirus wave. Netanyahu has been supportive of the Austrian initiative since its beginning.

Addressing the six leaders, Netanyahu presented Israel’s mass vaccination drive, encouraging the leaders and their health ministers to get vaccinated in order to give the public confidence in the process. He also recommended to his peers that logistically, the goal should be as many vaccines as possible, as quickly as possible. Mitsotakis and Babis have been vaccinated, Solberg has said she'll wait her turn and the others are promoting vaccine drives in their countries, though Morrison is treading more cautiously.

After describing the successful Israeli campaign drive, Netanyahu proposed the formation of an international corporation that would bring together governments to work both on the coronavirus and in future pandemics.

"We're seven countries, with the largest population – Australia. Most of us have populations of five to 12 million. Why don't we seriously talk about forming a conglomeration for research? We all have research and scientific capabilities. We all have technological capabilities. We have to develop this capacity. We cannot be at the mercy of market forces. … I think that in order to get reasonable scale of economic scale and scientific scale, we should seriously look at pooling together our efforts. We must join forces and seriously begin to talk about both scientific research and production and supply, first to our respective countries and then to everyone else. Let's already plan for the years ahead," he argued.

Israel participated last June in a global virtual coronavirus summit organized by the World Health Organization. While it did not pledge specific financial donations, it committed to global cooperation to ensure access to vaccines, treatments and testing, with a special focus on Africa. It was also one of the 80 countries that submitted non-binding expressions of interest this summer to the Gavi-coordinated COVAX Facility, an initiative for equitable access to coronavirus treatment and vaccines for developing countries. It is unclear whether Netanyahu's new initiative would operate within the WHO international research framework or apart.

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