Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, Umm Al-Fahm Mayor Samir Sobhi Mahameed, Clalit Healthcare Services Chairman Harel Locker, Maccabi Healthcare Services Chairman Ran Saar, the official responsible for coronavirus affairs in the Arab sector, Ayman Saif, and Umm Al-Fahm resident Jabarin Muhammad, 66 -- the 1,000,000th Israeli to be vaccinated against COVID-19 - Jan. 01, 2021

Israel became the first nation in the world to inoculate 10 percent of its population against COVID-19 on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein were present at the anti-coronavirus vaccination site in the city of Umm Al-Fahm to meet the one-millionth (1,000,000) person in Israel to be vaccinated, 66-year-old Jabarin Muhammad.

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Also participating in the visit were Umm Al-Fahm Mayor Samir Sobhi Mahameed, Clalit Healthcare Services Chairman Harel Locker, Maccabi Healthcare Services Chairman Ran Saar, and the official responsible for coronavirus affairs in the Arab sector, Ayman Saif.

For Netanyahu, the visit was important for getting the message out to the Arab community to vaccinate, and with elections coming up in March it doesn’t hurt to try and reach out to potential voters that might not have thought about voting for the Likud, letting them know that he is looking out for their interests too.

“We are ahead of the entire world,” Netanyahu said. “We are moving forward at great speed in order to vaccinate the entire population.

“It is important to me also that the Arab population in the State of Israel be vaccinated quickly. It is important because this saves lives and only thus will we be able to return to normal lives.

“As soon as we reach a critical mass of people who are vaccinated, we will be able to open commerce, the stores and the restaurants. We will be able to fly abroad, to make deals and travel in all the countries that we have made peace with, peace that has opened the world and is also changing our history, as Israeli society and as a country, he said.

But Netanyahu added that it would have been better to have authorized a lockdown with strong restrictions than one that was less effective.

“There is responsibility and there is a lack of responsibility. The responsibility is to bring the vaccines and distribute them. The lack of responsibility is – at the same time – to allow the disease to run amok. I regret that for populistic reasons, we were prevented from enacting the small and tightened lockdown that we wanted and which would save hundreds of people and families in the State of Israel.

“We wanted a small and tightened lockdown and a rapid opening of the economy together with lightning quick vaccinations. I regret that this has not happened; therefore, I would like to take this opportunity here and say that we will continue to bring vaccines and I call on the public to be vaccinated.”

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that because Israel has already succeeded in vaccinating one million people, it is possible to say “with certainty” that Israel, “with God’s help, will be the first country in the world to be vaccinated,” noting the accomplishment will be great indeed.

“Within a few months, we will be able to say: ‘Hasta la vista’ to the coronavirus and return to normality,” Edelstein said.

“We are all in this together. There is no difference between Jews and Arabs, religious and secular. As long as we are unsuccessful in reaching great numbers of vaccinated people in every place, we will be unable to go out to all of the places that are so important to us all.

“But we are not there yet and we must strictly adhere to the directives. It is a pity for each person who, instead of being at home, is in serious condition in a coronavirus ward in hospital. Come and let us make another effort to emerge from this with minimal patients and victims and without the virus running amok again.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.