JERUSALEM, Israel – Three Gulf states have turned to Israel for help as they continue to battle the COVID-19 outbreak, Israeli media reports.
Representatives from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been in constant contact with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, said Yoel Hareven, who leads the hospital’s International Division. Hareven said added that a high-ranking member of the Emirati royal family quietly visited the hospital in March.
A third Gulf country that Hareven refuses to name reportedly asked Sheba for help in installing an advanced telemedicine system used to treat patients from afar. Hareven said the country is “central” in the Gulf and is “not one we’re used to hearing about.”
Israeli media speculates this third Gulf country is Kuwait, which officially does not recognize the State of Israel and does not have diplomatic relations with the country.
“We offered them any help they need, even if it’s connecting doctors or nurses, or sending teams to them, sharing logistical knowledge,” Hareven said. “Whatever help we can give our neighbors – we will do it happily.”
Hareven believes the region is opening up to Israel.
“There is a growing readiness to interact with us, even openly, in the health sphere,” he said. “These things happen slowly, but they happen, maybe not at the [inter-governmental] level as we would have liked, but things are happening.”
Hareven explained that the governments in the gulf are centralized, meaning that contact between representatives from the three countries and Sheba could not have taken place without the leader’s approval.
“There are a lot of things happening above and below the surface,” Hareven said. “They believe very strongly in the connection with Israeli medicine and Israel generally.”
Hareven said this recent contact between Sheba and the Gulf states can open the door to more cooperation between the Jewish state and the Gulf.
“You open a small crack and the foot enters the door, and later the whole body and then the head comes in,” he said. “It’s indeed the beginning of a very fascinating journey — for the entire Israeli public, not only for the medical field or Sheba Medical Center.”
Last week, UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said on Tuesday during a webinar hosted by the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Insider that she is unaware of any current medical collaboration between her country and Israel, but said: “I don’t think we would be opposed to it.”
“I really think the public health space should be an unpoliticized space, where we all try and pool our knowledge of this virus,” Nusseibeh explained.
2 \ Ambassador @LNusseibeh congratulated Israeli scientists that have found a potential treatment for Covid-19. “That is very exciting for all of our part of the world – we are also working on that too, so there is potentially room for cooperation there”, She added pic.twitter.com/pU7r1nTC8A
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) May 5, 2020
She also congratulated Israeli health experts for their research on a potential COVID-19 antibody treatment.
“That is very exciting for all of us… because we are also working on similar therapeutics, so there is potentially room for cooperation there,” she said.
Last week, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post he is “very optimistic” about stronger ties between Israel and the Gulf.
“Allies with America could also be allies with each other; that’s the natural progression of the relationships,” he said.