In a PR stunt gone wrong, the millionth recipient of the Covid-19 vaccine in Israel, who got his jab in front of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, was revealed to be a former criminal who did time for stabbing a man to death.
Israel is currently undertaking the largest vaccination campaign in the world and Netanyahu is trying to get the maximum publicity out of it, as the country’s fourth parliamentary election in just two years looms in March.
The PM was the first to receive a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech drug in December, and on Friday he arrived at a clinic in the Arab-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm to personally oversee the millionth Israeli citizen being vaccinated.
This honor was given to 66-year-old local man, Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab Jabarin, who was apparently randomly selected from among those who came for the vaccine.
After the landmark injection was made, a jubilant Netanyahu proclaimed: “What excitement, Jabarin is the millionth person in the State of Israel to be vaccinated. We are breaking all of the records.”
“It is important to me also that the Arab population in the State of Israel be vaccinated quickly,” he insisted.
The prime minister and other officials then posed for a photo with Jabarin, which was later shared on the government’s website and social media accounts.
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Local media started digging into the millionth vaccine recipient’s past, however, and soon discovered some dark pages in it. It turned out that Jabarin killed a man with a knife back in 1978 and served a lengthy sentence for manslaughter. He was out of prison in 1992.
Umm al-Fahm officials confessed they were “shocked” when they saw Jabarin together with Netanyahu. Talking to the Kan broadcaster, they suggested that the PM’s media team was unaware of the man’s criminal record.
The Times of Israel newspaper tried contacting Netanyahu’s office about the blunder, but its representative said he “had no further details” on the identity of the millionth vaccine recipient.
Meanwhile, Jabarin confirmed his criminal past in an interview with Radio 103 FM, saying that he was not at all happy about the attention he was getting.
“I’m an honest person. That was over 30 years ago…I paid my debt to society, and put all that behind me. I have children and grandchildren,” he pointed out.
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“If people want to take on Netanyahu, they shouldn’t do it via me,” he added, referring to the PM being grilled by his opponents for being photographed with an ex-convict and accused of staging the whole stunt in an attempt to get the Arab votes.
Jabarin said that he was completely unaware of what was going to happen to him at the clinic. “Suddenly the prime minister greets me, it was exciting,” he recalled.
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