Scores of Palestinian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, a rare bright spot of coexistence here, are being sent home because the Palestinian Authority has stopped paying for their treatment, partly in anger over the war in Gaza.
Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem says that for the past week, no payments have come in and Palestinians whose children it is treating have been instructed by Palestinian health officials to place them in facilities in the West Bank, Jordan or Egypt.
“Suddenly we have had 57 patients dropped from our rolls,” said Dr. Michael Weintraub, director of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Hadassah. “We have been bombarded by frantic parents. This is a political decision taken on the backs of patients.”
The Palestinian health minister, Fathi Abu Moghli, said he was examining the entire referral procedure because he was tired of adding to what he called Israel’s “oil well,” meaning the payments for Palestinian patient care. In particular, he said, he had no desire to see the wounded from the Gaza war receive Israeli care.
“We already pay $7 million a month to Israeli hospitals,” he said in a telephone interview. “Since the first day of the Gaza aggression, I said that I will not send to my occupier my injured people in order for him to make propaganda at my expense, and then pay him for it.”
An Israeli clinic set up with great fanfare on the Israeli-Gaza border the day the war ended, Jan. 18, has already closed, since both Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority essentially boycotted it. The Palestinian Authority pays for much of its citizens’ care in Israel from its budget.
Israel has long pointed to its medical care of Palestinians as an example of its advanced skills and humanitarianism. Palestinians generally are eager to gain the benefit, but are also resentful. As relations have chilled, each side has accused the other of political manipulation.
Dr. Abu Moghli said that with 24 hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, there was no reason for so many Palestinian patients to go automatically to Israeli facilities, which he said were much more expensive and contributed to a culture of dependency.
“We can’t pay our government salaries this month, but at the same time I have to pay Israeli hospitals so much,” he said. “The Israelis have refused to reduce their costs.”