Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, of the Flemish Green party, made false claims about the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Israel.
In an interview with Flemish public television VRT, De Sutter responded to questions about the slow rollout of vaccines in her country by saying: “ the UK and Israel, as well as Russia and China, are vaccinating people with vaccines that are not of the same standard as the ones we use.”
Israelis have been receiving the same Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that Belgium and the rest of Europe is getting.
“If you speed up the procedure and start using shortcuts, you end up with less certainty that the vaccine is not only efficient, but also high-quality and safe,” she said.
“In Europe, they have chosen the safe way, also to wipe away the criticism from people who may think that things are going too quickly or that the vaccine is not safe,” she added. “The UK and Israel have not followed procedures properly.”
De Sutter, a former member of the European Parliament for the Greens, is known as a longtime critic of Israel.
In an apparent response to De Sutter, Israel’s ambassador to Belgium, Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted: “Seeing the reactions to the extraordinary Israeli vaccination campaign by some officials and ‘specialists’ in certain countries (no names), I’m aghast at the mixture of jealousy, pettiness and hypocrisy. Don’t blame your failures on us, just don’t!”
Michael Freilich, a Jewish Member of the Belgian parliament from the opposition Flemish nationalist N-VA party, said “it’s disgraceful for a minister to launch such fake news about Israel in order to cover up their own mistakes.”
Belgium has been“extremely slow,” Freilich added. “We have had 700 vaccines administered in the past two weeks. Instead of praising Israel and saying ‘how can we learn from Israel, let’s work together,’ she’s going out and disparaging Israel. That is unworthy of a minister and I wonder if the fact that she’s from the Green Party, and we know their hostility to Israel, is the real reason for what she is saying.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and other leaders have called Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him and to discuss possible cooperation in the fight against coronavirus.