Dr. Michael Sharnoff, NESA Center, 30 March 2020
Dr. Michael Sharnoff is an Associate Professor at the NESA Center and is the author of Nasser’s Peace: Egypt’s Response to the 1967 War with Israel.
The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused many deaths, illnesses and major disruptions for Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. Israel’s Ministry of Health on Friday reported the country’s 12th death caused by COVID-19 coronavirus as the number of infections in the country surged past 3,000. One Palestinian woman has died in the West Bank and there are 62 confirmed cases in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Jordanian officials have reported 212 cases, including two recoveries and no deaths. The actual number of reported cases may in fact be much higher. To prevent the spread of the virus, each government has imposed its own form of lockdown and quarantine, which, like in other parts of the world under similar conditions, has created anxiety and frustration.
Despite these serious challenges, there may be an opportunity for neighbors whom may normally be suspicious of each other to cooperate against a common threat. Indeed, the Coronavirus does not discriminate against its victims, be they Muslim, Jewish or Christian. Reports indicate that Israeli hospitals have helped train Palestinian health-care workers, and Israeli labs have evaluated Palestinian COVID-19 diagnostic tests. Israel provided test kits to the West Bank and medical professionals are apparently sharing the results and collaborating on prevention methods.
The public appears to support joint cooperation. An opinion poll during March 12-15 conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion revealed that a majority of Palestinians support the Palestinian Authority working with Israel to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and most Palestinians support how their government has handled the crisis.
This data is very encouraging. Positive Palestinian opinion of cooperation with Israel could influence popular opinion in Jordan, which is normally sympathetic to and supportive of the Palestinians. Mutual cooperation among all parties could help strengthen trust and promote regional stability.
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