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MDA Head Defends Controversial Agreement With Red Cross

Magen David Adom Director General Eli Bin tries to defend the agreement signed between the first aid organization and the Red Cross.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 2/19/2012, 4:15 PM

MDA Director General Eli Bin
MDA Director General Eli Bin
Yoni Kempinski

Eli Bin, Director General of Magen David Adom (MDA), gave an interview to Arutz Sheva in which he tried to defend the first aid organization from recent negative publicity on provision of emergency services for Jews and on removing its trademark red Star of David symbol from ambulances - in Israeli towns east of the 1949 armistice line.

The 1949 armistice line is the indefensible ceasefire line at the end of the war that seven Arab armies waged against the fledgling Jewish state after it was declared on May 14, 1948. During the 1967 Six Day War that ensued when threatening Arab armies surrounded the tiny country once again, Israel miraculously managed to extend its territory to eastward to include Judea, Samaria and all of Jerusalem. This area originally was promised to the Jewish homeland by the League of Nations, but had been illegally occupied by Jordan since 1949. International opinion refuses to recognize Israel's right to this area and the return to the Biblical heartland that it delineates. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens live there with the support of Israel's government.

The Red Cross recently confirmed Arutz Sheva's exposure of the agreement in which Magen David Adom, the official Israeli rescue organization, promised not to be the provider of emergency care for Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria. In the past, only the official Israeli rescue organization was allowed to provide services for Jews in Judea and Samaria, while the Red Crescent did so for Arabs, but the MDA agreement meant regional councils would be in charge of Jewish rescue efforts. It also agreed to remove the Jewish star symbol from ambulances in Judea and Samaria.

When Arutz Sheva first exposed the agreement, the MDA head claimed it was inaccurate, but Arutz Sheva then posted the entire agreement it had obtained with MDA signatures on it.

MDA had signed a document that,on its part, abrogated the right to serve any areas not recognized internationally as part of Israel. That meant large population centers such as Kiryat Arba, Efrat, Maaleh Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and parts of Jerusalem as well as all the smaller Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Contributions to MDA were affected negatively after the agreement was disclosed. A grassroots rebellion saw red Jewish star stickers being pasted on ambulances and volunteers from Judea and Samaria refusing to go to their stations.

National Union Knesset Member Dr. Aryeh Eldad recently wrote in his Facebook page, “Magen David Adom decided to stop buying ambulances in Judea and Samaria, to remove its emblem and to direct its workers not to wear their official uniforms in Judea and Samaria.”

He called on people to stop donating to MDA and instead donate blood directly to hospital blood banks and channel funds to regional councils that would now have to administer the rescue services in Judea and Samaria.

The agreement signed between Magen David Adom and the Red Cross came after many years in which MDA tried to be accepted to the International Red Cross without success.

MDA Director Bin said that an agreement was finally reached in 2005. This was the period when Ariel Sharon was Prime Minister, and the designer of the 'disengagement' from Gaza knew of the agreement and allowed it to be signed. It was not publicized and its implementation was put off until the Red Cross recently decided to begin checking its implementation.

“This entire process was accompanied by the Foreign Ministry and the Health Ministry and their legal advisors..,” Bin asserted, “Magen David Adom does not determine borders of countries. Magen David Adom does not determine if symbols are used in a certain place or not. There is a policy that is dictated by the government of Israel.

"Magen David Adom signed an agreement which is an agreement to join the International Red Cross, part of which says that symbols cannot be used in a different state or in a state in which you are not a member.

Effectively comparing Judea and Samaria to a foreign country or state, he said: "Thus, I cannot drive an ambulance in Turkey with Magen David Adom symbols and the Turks can’t drive ambulances with the symbol of the Red Crescent within the borders of the State of Israel....

The MDA had earlier explained the change in symbols as being a technical one, differentiating central organization ambulances from those partially funded by local authorities.

In this vein, Bin says that the International Red Cross differentiates between regular ambulances and between community-owned ambulances, where a local council operates the ambulance and pays the maintenance expenses and the paramedics’ salaries.

The Red Cross, says Bin, said that Magen David Adom should remove its symbols from community-owned ambulances in Judea and Samaria, but MDA replied that it would only do so if the request applies to all community-owned ambulances throughout Israel.  

He did not note that this reply came after Judea and Samaria Council head, Danny Dayan, heard of the demand and protested this way of singling out the communities in Judea and Samaria when there are community owned ambulances in other parts of Israel. 

“An ambulance that is operated by a community, an ambulance that is operated by a local council which pays all the salaries and all the maintenance expenses will have a different symbol,” Bin says. “Judea and Samaria are treated the same way as ambulances inside the borders of the State of Israel that were determined before 1967.”

A perusal of the agreement shows that the symbol's removal was demanded by the Red Cross for Israeli ambulances in Judea and Samaria. In fact, the Red Cross representative in charge of supervising the agreement's progress, recently reported that only 20'% of the ambulances in Judea and Samaria have not changed their symbol, indicating that this is his mandate.

MDA's current president, Prof. Yehuda Skornik, has said that he would not have signed the agreement and that membership in the International Red Cross is important, but not at any price.

“I see in the residents of Judea and Samaria people who are fulfilling a mission,” Bin said. “They’re there because the State of Israel decided that they’ll be there, and if the State thinks otherwise, it should take care of these issues. Magen David Adom is not the police, it’s not the government and it’s not the State. It doesn’t determine borders.”

Bin concluded, “Magen David Adom continues to operate 14 stations inside Judea and Samaria and it will continue to do so forever, with or without an agreement. Period.”

This last sentence is, hopefully, a declaration that MDA will continue to treat all Israelis as equals and that if "push comes to shove" and the Red Cross insists on keeping to the letter of the agreement, it will be willing to forego membership in the organization. Because the fact remains, however, that Magen David Adom, a national organization, after operating proudly in all of Israel with its Jewish symbol for many years, signed an agreement in 2005 whose wording differentiated between Judea and Samaria's Jewish residents and those within the 1949 Armistice line and mandated a neutral symbol for Israel's ambulances in that area.